The Yankees started righthander Michael Pineda, but the Rays apparently thought he was introduced as Michael Piñata, judging by the way they battered him in a five-run first inning Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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Pineda settled down to go five innings and strike out nine, but there was no recovering from the early damage in an 8-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
Six of the seven runs given up by Pineda (1-2, 6.95 ERA) came with two outs, including all five runs in the opening inning, when he gave up six straight hits — five for extra bases. He finished with a line that included 10 hits allowed, including four home runs.
It marked the first time in franchise history that a Yankees pitcher allowed at least four home runs and struck out nine or more. Relievers Kirby Yates and Nick Goody added seven more strikeouts for a total of 16, which was the first time in franchise history that Yankees pitchers struck out 16 in a nine-inning loss.
Speaking of Pineda’s strange outing, manager Joe Girardi said: “He didn’t have movement [on his fastball], he didn’t have cut. He had his slider. He had nine strikeouts.
“Sometimes it’s hard to figure out. You never would think a guy would have nine strikeouts and give up four home runs.”
Evan Longoria started the free-for-all by the Rays’ bats with a loud double off the centerfield fence before cleanup hitter Corey Dickerson launched a first-pitch fastball into the stands in right-center for a 2-0 lead. Steve Pearce stroked a single and scored on a double by Brad Miller that sailed over the head of leftfielder Brett Gardner.
Steven Souza Jr. then hit a booming, no-doubt shot into the seats in left-centerfield for a 5-0 lead, giving the Rays two homers, two doubles and a single in a nine-pitch span. Kevin Kiermaier laced the Rays’ third double of the inning, into the rightfield corner, but was stranded when the ninth batter of the inning, Curt Casali, popped up.
“I’m trying to do the best I can to get the third out,” Pineda said. “Some days you have good movement. Some days you don’t. It was a bad first inning for me. I felt great in the bullpen and good on the mound . . . I continued fighting and throwing everything I’ve got and trying to make good pitches and be better.”
Pineda appeared to turn a corner in the second when he struck out the side after giving up a leadoff single. But Pearce led off the third by smoking a first-pitch fastball into the seats in left-center for a 6-0 lead, and Souza added a solo shot to rightfield in the fifth for his second homer of the game.
Logan Forsythe hit the Rays’ fifth homer of the game off Goody in the eighth.
In sharp contrast to Pineda, Tampa Bay lefthander Drew Smyly (1-2) pitched seven innings, spacing out six hits, allowing one run and striking out six to push his MLB-best total to 33. The Yankees scored their only run in the fourth when Gardner was hit by a pitch and scored on a double by Alex Rod riguez that just missed clearing the wall in the leftfield corner.
That was Rodriguez’s final at-bat of the game. He left for a pinch hitter in the sixth when he felt stiffness in his side.
Teams are stacking their rotations with as much lefthanded starting pitching as possible against the Yankees, who are 29th in MLB with a .291 slugging percentage and 27th with an OPS of .609 against lefthanders.
Asked about the Yankees’ struggles against lefties, Chase Headley said: “I don’t know if it’s lefthanded starters or starters in general. We have a lot of veteran guys, and I know we’ll get going. But it’s frustrating.”