Tough loss for bullpen in lengthy outing

It was shaping up to be another outstanding bullpen game for the Yankees Wednesday and was something of a shame that the 3-2, 13-inning loss to the Rays was hung on a relief pitcher.

The relief corps accounted for 7 1/3 of the innings for the Yankees, and in that time Tampa Bay got one hit. Unfortunately for the Yanks, the hit was a single by James Loney that scored what proved the winning run as the Rays avoided being swept twice by the Yankees in the past two weeks.

Chasen Shreve, who earned his first major-league victory Sunday night against the Mets, had the one tough inning for the Yanks’ pem Wednesday. A one-out walk to Steven Souza Jr. did not seem that ominous at first, especially after Melky Cabrera grounded out while Souza took second base, the first time in seven innings that the Rays put a runner in scoring position.

The Yankees chose to walk intentionally the right-handed Evan Longoria to pitch to the lefty-swinging Loney, against whom they employed an exaggerated shift to the right side. Loney hit a ground ball into the shift, but second baseman Stephen Drew was so deep that his throw could not prevent Souza from crossing the plate. Drew might have had better luck throwing to first base to try for Loney, who is one of the slowest runners in the game.

The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the 13th when Chris Young singled with one out, but Alex Rodriguez finished off a miserable day at the plate by grounding into a game-ending double play. A-Rod was 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.

It was a strike me out to the ballgame afternoon for the Yankees, who were punched out 15 times in the game, all but one of those Ks coming in the first eight innings. Meanwhile, Yankees pitchers ran up 13 strikeouts. That is an enormous amount considering it was a picture-postcard day with perfect visibility.

Michael Pineda pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on a triple to Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth. The Yankees’ runs came on solo home runs by Chase Headley in the fifth and Young in the sixth, both off Tampa Bay starter Drew Smyly, who had 10 strikeouts in his six innings.

After Pineda departed, Yankees relievers retired 14 consecutive batters before Chris Martin walked Cabrera with one out in the 11th. Kiermaier also reached on a walk by Schreve in the 12th in an at–bat extended when Headley dropped a foul pop behind third base. But no damage resulted from either walk. The 13th inning was a different tale.

The bullpen remains a major strength for the Yankees. Relievers have a combined ERA of 0.80 ERA since April 22 with 38 strikeouts in 30 innings. Overall, the pen has a 1.75 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .159 batting average.

The relievers have earned their day off Thursday.

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