So this was kind of a hard one to stomach, mainly because everything I mentioned in the preview that had gone wrong for Michael Pineda last season happened last night. Well, that and the distinct lack of offense from the Yankees lineup. Let’s talk about Pineda first though.
Here’s the check list of issues I outlined in the preview: high home run rate, bad luck, difficulty finishing innings. Why don’t we run through them one by one?
High Home Run Rate. Check.
The trouble began almost instantly for Pineda when he gave up a leadoff home run to Rays DH Cory Dickerson. He missed his spot with his fastball and Dickerson made him pay for it. Off to a bad start.
Bad Luck. Check.
Pitchers can’t control everything that happens to them, particularly what happens to the ball after it comes off the hitter’s bat. Things like weird hops and fielding errors on routine plays happen all the time, and you can’t fault a pitcher for them. Sometimes, though, the field itself might decide to impose its will on the ball and screw things up for the pitcher. We saw it happen on Tuesday to the Rays on the fly ball to left that Matt Holliday hit. On Wednesday, we saw it happen to the Yankees. With no outs and a man on first in the second inning, Logan Morrison hit a towering fly ball to right field. At just about any other field it would’ve been a routine out. Not at the Trop though. The ball went so high that it bounced off of one of the catwalks on the roof of the dome and landed on the field in between Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro. There is literally nothing Pineda could have done about that, and instead of having a man on first with one out, he ended up with two runners on and no outs. Bad luck.
Difficulty Finishing Innings. Check.
After the funky pop-up single by Morrison, Pineda struck out Tim Beckham. 1 out. A wild pitch allowed Morrison and Steven Souza Jr. to advance to second and third. Still 1 out. Mallex Smith hits a week ground ball to the third base with Souza Jr. going home on contact. Headley makes the smart play and goes home with the ball. In spite of a bad throw, Sanchez was able to get the tag down (maybe?) on Souza Jr. for the out at the plate. Tampa challenged the call on the field, but it was upheld due to lack of sufficient evidence to overturn. 2 outs. Uh oh. With runners on first and third, Pineda proceeded to give up three straight singles, two of them on two strike counts. You just can’t do that. The Yankees could have gotten out of the inning unscathed, but instead the Rays put three on the board and the Yankees never caught up.
Pineda was pulled in the fourth inning. His final line was 3.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 6 K, 1 HR. On a more positive note, the Yankees bullpen continued their streak of excellence this season, with Tommy Layne, Adam Warren, and Chasen Shreve combining for 4.1 no-hit innings.
On the offensive side of the ball the Yankees were almost completely ineffective. The sole run came on a Jacob Ellsbury solo shot in the second. That’s right, #5 hitter and offensive juggernaut Jacob Ellsbury. He finished the day 3-4. Maybe Joe’s binders actually know what they’re talking about.
That was it though. The team scored just the one run on 8 hits, going 0-9 with runners in scoring position, which is just awful.
Gary Sanchez got his first hit of the season, a single on a hard hit ground ball through the shift. It’s nice that he at least has that weight off his shoulders. Of course, it’s not as though he’s really struggling at the plate. He’s continuing to tear the cover off the ball. In his first at bat he launched one to the warning track in center. The hits will come eventually. We just have to be patient.
The only other offensive highlight came in the top of the ninth inning, as hitting extraordinaire Chase Headley showed us yet another innovative way to beat the shift: by hitting the ball as hard as you can at the pitcher. On a 1-2 count and with the left side of the infield wide open, Headley hit a ground ball straight back to the mound. Rays pitcher Alex Colome tried to make a play on the ball, but it ended up deflecting off of his glove and rolling onto the outfield grass in left. A nearly identical play happened earlier in the inning when Ellsbury hit a line drive straight back to Colome that ricocheted off the pitcher and past second base. Lots of bad luck in this game.
So, the Yankees dropped their first series of the season to the Tampa Bay Rays, losing 2 out of 3. More of the same as the team looks to continue their tradition of slow starts in April. That’s just the pessimistic fan in me talking though. The team has an off day today, but tomorrow they begin a 3 game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Previews to come.