The Yankees look a lot different now than when Michael Pineda left them.
Before he was reactivated from the 15-day disabled list and took the mound in Wednesday afternoon's 6-2 loss to the Astros, the last time Pineda pitched for the Yankees was on July 24. Back then, the team still had a 5 1/2-game lead over the Blue Jays for first place in the American League East. The roster appeared healthy enough that upper management felt comfortable not making a move at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
What a difference a month makes.
With players succumbing to injury up and down the roster -- Mark Teixeira's sore right leg, Jacoby Ellsbury's swollen hip, CC Sabathia's ailing knee -- the Yankees dropped to 1 1/2 games behind the Jays, who play the Rangers at 8:05 p.m. tonight. The Yankees were outscored 21-4 in the series.
Aside from a solo home run by Evan Gattis to lead off the second inning, Pineda, who missed over a month with a right forearm strain, looked sharp early. Through the first four innings, he allowed just the homer and two singles, and struck out three without surrendering a walk.
It all unraveled in the fifth.
Consecutive singles by Carlos Gomez and Luis Valbuena to begin the inning set the table for Jake Marisnick's safety squeeze that allowed Gomez to score. Pineda then walked a batter to load the bases with one out. Jose Altuve's sacrifice fly scored Valbuena to make it 3-0 and end Pineda's afternoon. Lefthander reliever Chasen Shreve entered and allowed both inherited runners to score, closing the book on Pineda.
In his 4 1/3 innings, Pineda (9-8) threw 71 pitches (44 strikes) and gave up five earned runs, six hits and a walk while striking out three. His ERA jumped .22 points to 4.19.
In the seventh, the Yankees got to within 5-2 on Didi Gregorius' second-deck, two-run homer to right field. It came on a 0-and-1 hanging curve from Astros starter Collin McHugh, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and struck out eight.
But Evan Gattis got hold of an offering from Adam Warren in the top of the eighth to give the Astros a 6-2 advantage. It was Gattis' second two-homer game of the season, and his 22nd overall.
Greg Bird, inserted into the lineup with Teixeira still nursing a bone bruise on his right leg, threatened to leave the yard with two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth, but Marisnick caught it just in front of the 385-foot marker in right-center.