The big news of the day has been the Yankees' trade of Andrew Miller. With the shock of having traded their top reliever lingering, the Yankees still had to try and avoid a sweep at the hands of the last place Rays. Michael Pineda couldn't deliver the start they needed, as New York fell 5-3.
Pineda looked fairly impressive in the early-going. He danced around a pair of walks in the second inning without allowing a run, and at one point had recorded six consecutive outs via strikeout. It was in the fourth inning that the Rays finally struck.
Corey Dickerson led off with a single, and moved to third as Steven Souza doubled on a hard groundball that deflected off Didi Gregorius' glove into left field. Dickerson scored on a groundout by Kevin Kiermaier, and Souza scored on a groundout by Tim Beckham, giving Tampa Bay a 2-0 advantage.
The Rays extended their lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Brad Miller crushed a home run to right center. Pineda left a slider over the plate and paid for it, an occurrence that has become common. It was the 20th home run Pineda has allowed this year, and it was a no-doubter:
Pineda's name has occasionally come up in trade rumors, and if he is to be dealt, this was his final chance to make an impression on potential suitors. The Marlins at one point seemed interested in Pineda's services, but with their acquisition of Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea, they appear to be out of the starting pitching market. Still, the quality package Miami had to surrender for a pair of underwhelming pitchers suggests Pineda could have value.
It doesn't seem likely that a Pineda trade is imminent, but in the scenario in which this was his final start as Yankee, his performance was fitting enough. Pineda, as is typical, flashed his plus stuff and at times looked strong. He struck out eight, and walked four. Yet the overall line (six innings, five runs) was disappointing, a microcosm of his time in New York the past couple years. If a team deals for him, they will be getting a 27 year old arm with team control and upside, but also a frustrating track record.
On the other side, Rays' starter Blake Snell kept the Yankees off balance. The 23 year old seemed to flummox the Yankees with his easy mid-90's fastball and knee-buckling sliders and curveballs. Many hitters looked lost at the plate on occasion, with Snell frequently generating tentative, awkward swings like this:
However, Carlos Beltran, the Yankees' ageless warrior, was able to crack Snell. After Jacoby Ellsbury led off the sixth with a walk, Beltran lined his 22nd home run of the year to make it 3-2. With his contract over at year's end, and with the Yankees in sell-mode, there is little reason for Beltran to play another game for the Yankees this year. But Beltran has been the Yankees' best hitter by far in 2016, and over the past two years has been wonderful to watch at the plate. If this was his final game for New York, he went out in style.
Luke Maile's two run, two out single in the sixth got those runs right back for the Rays, who took a 5-2 lead. In the seventh, Luis Severino made his second appearance out of the bullpen for the Yankees. He again looked strong in relief, tossing a pair of scoreless innings while frequently touching 98 mph with his fastball. In four relief innings since his return to the majors, Severino hasn't allowed a hit, and has five strikeouts compared to two walks.
Brian McCann singled home Starlin Castro in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-3, but it wasn't enough. The Yankees had their chances throughout the game, putting multiple runners on base during most innings. Four double plays prevented them from making the most of those opportunities.
Their fourth straight loss dropped the Yankees back to .500 at 52-52. Any fanciful thoughts of contending should be mostly eradicated at this point, with the team mired in fourth place in the AL East and having traded a pair of elite relievers. The trade deadline is tomorrow at 4:00 EST, so by the time the Yankees play again, their team could look quite different. Regardless, CC Sabathia is slated to start tomorrow against the Mets as the Subway Series begins.