Pineda still cannot get untracked

The Yankees have had a recent history of success against reigning American League pennant winners, including the previous two nights with victories over the Royals. But Kansas City resembled more the team that beat the Mets in last year’s World Series Wednesday night than in the first two games of the series and coasted to a 7-3 victory.

Even with the loss, the Yankees have a .640 winning percentage since 2011 against the prior season’s AL champions based on a 32-18 record. The Yankees were 7-2 against the Rangers in 2011 and 4-3 against them in 2012, 3-3 against the Tigers in 2013, 12-7 against the Red Sox in 2014 and 4-2 against the Royals last year. This season, the Yankees are 2-1 against KC.

Another uneven start from Michael Pineda put the Yankees in a 4-0 hole in the first inning. The righthander followed that with four scoreless innings while his teammates closed to 4-3 entering the sixth. But Pineda put two runners on after two were out that inning, and both scored when reliever Nick Goody hit Alcives Escobar with a pitch to load the bases and gave up a two-run single to Lorenzo Cain, who homered three times Tuesday night.

The Royals used the long ball again Wednesday night, only this time toward a winning cause. A three-run shot by Salvador Perez was the crushing blow in the first inning off Pineda, whose record fell to 1-4 with a 6.28 ERA. Kendrys Morales homered off Phil Coke leading off the seventh inning. The Royals have gone deep eight times in the series.

Most disturbing of all about Pineda’s outing was his lack of command. He was once the epitome of the control pitcher that forced hitters to earn their way on base. Four walks and two hit batters was decidedly out of character for the righthander yet in keeping with a negative trend this year. Pineda has walked 13 batters in 38 2/3 innings, a rate of slightly more than three walks per nine innings. His career mark is 1.9. Pineda has also hit three batters this year, which is as many as he did all of last season in 160 2/3 innings.

The Yankees tried to get him off the hook. Carlos Betran led off the second inning against Yordano Ventura with his seventh home run of the season and career No. 399, which tied Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga for 54th place on the all-time list. A two-out, RBI single by Chase Headley cut the Royals’ lead in half.

It became a one-run game when the Yankees added a run in the fifth on a walk to Brett Gardner, a double by Starlin Castro and a grounder to the right side by Brian McCann. They got only two hits after that and were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position for the game.

Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury were still out of the lineup, but Aaron Hicks has started to heat up and lifted his batting average above .200 at .216 with three hits.

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