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. 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) came with two outs, including all five runs in the opening inning, when Pineda gave up six straight hits — five for extra bases. It almost felt as if Pineda was lobbing batting-practice pitches as the Rays sprayed power shots to all sections of the ballpark.
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. His efficiency was reflected by a pitch count of 93.
The Yankees (7-10) won two of three games in the series but finished the nine-game homestand 3-6.
Evan Longoria started the free-for-all by the Rays’ bats with a loud double off the fence in left-center before cleanup hitter Corey Dickerson launched a first-pitch fastball into low Earth orbit before it landed in the stands in right-center for a 2-0 lead. Steve Pearce then stroked a single and scored on a double by Brad Miller that sailed over the head of leftfielder Brett Gardner.
Next up was Rays rightfielder Steven Souza, who hit a booming, no-doubt shot into the seats in left-center for a 5-0 lead. Kevin Kiermaier then laced the Rays’ third double of the inning into the rightfield corner but was stranded there when No. 9 hitter Curt Casali popped up.
After Pineda gave up a leadoff single in the second, he proceeded to strike out the side and appeared to have turned a corner. But Pearce led off the third inning by smoking a first-pitch fastball into the seats in left-center for a 6-0 lead.
The Yankees responded in the bottom of 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.
Rodriguez later was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. The Yankees said he has “left oblique stiffness” and went for an MRI before the game was over.
The Rays took one more big swipe at Pineda with two outs in the fifth when Souza belted his second home run of the game, pushing a liner inside the foul pole in rightfield into the second deck for a 7-1 lead. Pineda ended the inning by striking out Kiermaier, meaning he had struck out eight different Rays while giving up hits to seven different Rays. Pineda finished with a line that included nine strikeouts, 10 hits and four home runs allowed.
Kirby Yates replaced Pineda in the sixth and threw two scoreless innings, but reliever Nick Goody gave up a two-out solo home run to Rays designated hitter Logan Forsythe in the eighth for the final run.