Slade Heathcott will never forget his first big-league at-bat. It was a hustle double to left-centerfield in the third inning Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, it came in what ended up as another lost night. They were trailing by seven runs when Heathcott came to bat and, despite a spirited comeback, went on to a 10-9 loss to the Rangers.
Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer in the fourth, pinch hitter Garrett Jones launched a three-run shot in the eighth and Mark Teixeira hit a solo blast in the ninth, but it wasn't enough to prevent the eighth defeat in the last nine games for the Yankees (22-20). Prince Fielder hit two home runs and drove in four runs for the Rangers.
Errors by Michael Pineda and Gregorius and two massive home runs in Texas' seven-run top of the third put the Yankees in a deep hole even before Heathcott had a chance to hit a line drive to left-center and make it to second with a headfirst slide.
"Every base in this game counts," he said. "Whether it's 11-0 or we're down. Doesn't matter. Every base counts."
Heathcott went 2-for-3 out of the nine hole in his first start for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury.
"I thought the young man played well," Joe Girardi said.
Pineda (5-2, 3.59 ERA) hardly looked like an ace when he couldn't prevent a big inning after the Yankees' suspect defense gave the Rangers an opportunity in the third. "We gave them too many outs and too many baserunners," Girardi said. "Cost us the game."
The Rangers had runners on first and second with none out when Pineda fired wildly to first on a sacrifice-bunt attempt by Thomas Field for an error that loaded the bases.
Delino DeShields followed with a chopper to the right of Gregorius that he tried -- and failed -- to backhand. The ball hit off his glove for Gregorius' fifth error, and two runs scored for a 2-0 Texas lead.
Gregorius said his plan was to throw home even though, with his momentum taking him toward third base, it would have been an extremely difficult play. Girardi said that would have been trying to do too much.
Said Gregorius: "Was trying to go to the plate and try to save the run. But it cost more. That was a bad mistake."
Shin-Soo Choo singled home a run to make it 3-0 before Fielder unloaded on the next pitch, sending a three-run home run into the second deck in right. Two batters later, Mitch Moreland hit an equally impressive solo blast into the second deck to give Texas a 7-0 lead.
Three of the runs against Pineda were unearned, but the home runs were crushed. "He made some real mistakes," Girardi said. "And that's what happens."
Gregorius got some redemption with a three-run home run to right-center off Colby Lewis (4-2) to cap the Yankees' four-run fourth. It was his first home run as a Yankee and his first in 206 at-bats.
Alex Rodriguez singled home a run in the seventh. It was his 1,992nd RBI, tying him with Babe Ruth for fourth on the all-time list and moving him one behind Lou Gehrig. The Yankees noted the feat on the scoreboard.
With the Yankees trailing 10-5, Jones' three-run homer in the eighth and Teixeira's 13th home run with one out in the ninth brought the Yankees almost all the way back. Almost.