New York improved to 3-4 with its 8-1 win. It started on the mound with Michael Pineda retiring the first 20 hitters and striking out 11 in 7 2/3 innings.
“Today was awesome,” Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. “And Big Mike had a lot to do with that.”
Besides the electrifying showing on the mound, New York collected 10 hits as eight members of the starting lineup reached base at least once. Aaron Judge, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro homered while Matt Holliday and Jacoby Ellsbury delivered RBI doubles.
The Yankees are hitting .262 through their first seven games to go along with nine home runs. Ellsbury (.348), Holliday (.364), Castro (.310) and Headley (.375) are hitting over .300 to go along with a combined 14 RBIs.
The Rays (5-3) began their first road trip by matching their lowest hit total in any game against the Yankees. It was the first time since April 10, 2010, Tampa Bay was held to two hits against New York.
Evan Longoria broke up Pineda’s perfect game bid with a clean double to left field in the seventh and Logan Morrison hit a solo home run off Pineda in the eighth. Tampa Bay’s lineup struck out 12 times and did not draw a walk, lowering its team average to. 249.
At least the Rays were not on the wrong side of history for the fourth time in team history in a game where they were confounded by Pineda’s slider.
“We swung at some balls we probably shouldn’t have swung at,” Morrison said.
“He pitched about as well as somebody could pitch against a guy throwing a perfect game,” Longoria said.
If there is going to be any discussion of no-hitters or perfect games, it will derive from a pitching matchup of Jordan Montgomery for the Yankees and Blake Snell for the Rays.
Montgomery is the Yankees’ fifth starter for the time being, though many thought his debut would take place Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead, the Yankees pushed back their other starters one day, a move based on Masahiro Tanaka’s outing Saturday in Baltimore.
Montgomery outperformed pitchers such as Luis Cessa and Chad Green during spring training by going 1-0 with a 3.20 ERA in six appearances. One of those outings occurred March 23 against Tampa Bay when Montgomery fanned eight, including Longoria in three pitches on consecutive at-bats.
“The kid’s got a lot of pitch-ability,” Yankees catcher Austin Romine told reporters in spring training. “If it is hard to catch, it has to be hard to hit. He pitches in and is not afraid.”
The strong spring for the left-hander occurred after he was a combined 14-5 in 25 starts with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
“He just kind of pitched himself into it,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He has four-pitch mix. He had a very good downhill angle. He’s 6-6. He’s left-handed. He was able to use his breaking ball extremely well, whether it was his curveball or his cutter. His changeup’s good. And when he locates his fastball, it’s really good.”
Montgomery will be pitching on five days’ rest. On Thursday, he struck out eight and allowed a run in five innings while throwing 46 pitches for Class-A Tampa against Lakeland.
Snell knows something about making his major-league debut in New York.
On April 23, 2015, Snell made a spot start against the Yankees and did not get a decision after allowing one run and two hits in five innings during New York’s 3-2 win. It was the first of 19 starts the left-hander made when he was 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA
Snell is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in four career outings against the Yankees.
He began this season by allowing five runs, three hits and five walks in 6 2/3 innings in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. Snell allowed a grand slam to Kendrys Morales with two outs in the third but retired 10 of the final 14 hitters he faced, leaving the Rays optimistic about him despite the walks and other early issues.
“Blake’s going to be just fine,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re very confident in that. I’m very confident in that.
“He’s giving us a reason now just because of the stuff and how it’s played and the swings and misses he’s getting.”