The Yankees’ rickety chances of making a postseason run incurred two staggering body blows on Tuesday.
First, starter Nathan Eovaldi announced before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays that he expected to miss 14 to 18 months after having sustained two injuries in his right elbow — a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, which will require Tommy John surgery, and the flexor tendon’s shearing away off the bone.
Then the Yankees squandered a six-run lead and fell to the Blue Jays, 12-6, at Yankee Stadium.
After Toronto clawed back with four runs in the sixth inning, Edwin Encarnacion tied the game with a two-run homer in the eighth. Russell Martin added his second home run of the night, a soaring blast over the right-field wall that also drove in Troy Tulowitzki, and put the Blue Jays ahead, 8-6. Toronto added four more runs before the inning concluded.
Which catastrophe was more debilitating to the Yankees’ morale is debatable.
Eovaldi, a hard-throwing pitcher with an awkward delivery and a history of elbow trouble, departed from the Yankees’ game at Fenway Park last Wednesday after only 12 pitches. The reason cited was ominous: “Elbow discomfort.”
After a series of tests and consultations with two doctors, Eovaldi revealed just how portentous that description had been. He will require separate operations that could put his career in jeopardy.
While injuries to elbow ligaments have become epidemic in baseball, they have hit the Yankees particularly hard this season. In addition to Eovaldi, the Yankees have lost relievers Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow and Jacob Lindgren to Tommy John surgery. Their most prized pitching prospect, James Kaprielian, has not pitched in nearly four months because of a strained flexor tendon.
Eovaldi, 26, who is 9-8 with a 4.76 E.R.A. this year, ended last season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. He had his first Tommy John operation near the end of his junior year in high school.
“It hurts,’’ Manager Joe Girardi said. “This is a guy that we were counting on.”
If Eovaldi ever returns in a Yankees uniform, recent call-ups like Gary Sanchez could be firmly entrenched in the lineup by then. Sanchez continued to electrify fans, bashing two home runs in his first two at-bats against Toronto starter Marco Estrada.
Both homers came on changeups left over the middle of the plate, the second landing deep in the second level of the left-field seats, driving in two additional runs. That spotted Michael Pineda a 5-0 lead before a 42-minute rain delay halted the game in the fifth.
When play resumed, the Yankees picked up another run on a single by Didi Gregorius, who also homered in the first inning. The insurance proved to be more than window dressing, as the Blue Jays stormed back with the ferocity of the thundershowers that had pelted away at the tarp during the delay.
The bullpen’s inability to hold Pineda’s early work was disappointing after he subdued a powerful Blue Jays lineup twice through the order. The Yankees will need many more shutout innings from Pineda to compensate for Eovaldi’s absence, as they stand six and a half games behind Toronto in the division race.
”It’s unfortunate, because Michael was really good tonight,” Girardi said of the rain delay.
Eovaldi, a native of Alvin, Tex., the same hometown as Nolan Ryan, had long been viewed similarly as teams hoped he might harness a fastball that reached 100 miles per hour, as Ryan’s once did.
He showed promise in 2015 when he changed the grip on his split-fingered fastball and, with help from one of baseball’s most generous run-support figures, finished with a 14-3 record despite a pedestrian 4.20 E.R.A. This season he was superb in May, winning five consecutive starts, but was dreadful in June, briefly getting bumped to the bullpen. He seemed to have found his footing there, throwing seven and two-thirds scoreless innings, and was solid in returning to the rotation.
But then came his start against the Red Sox, his early exit and, now, the uncertainty about his return — as well as the Yankees’ ability to remain in the playoff race.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of consecutive starts Yankees pitcher Nathan Eovaldi won in May. It was five, not six.