ST. PETERSBURG -- Rene Rivera homered and drove in four runs, Erasmo Ramirez pitched five scoreless innings and the Rays defeated the Yankees, 6-1, on Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
Rivera's second-inning blast came on the first pitch from Esmil Rogers, who relieved Yankees starter Chase Whitley after he sustained what the team announced as a right elbow injury. The Tampa Bay catcher added a fourth-inning RBI single to extend the lead.
"I was just looking for something in the strike zone so I could put a good swing," Rivera said. "I saw it pretty well, could stay back and put a good swing on it."
Ramirez permitted just one hit to pick up his first victory of the year, and Matt Andriese worked the last four innings for a save. Alex Rodriguez hit a ninth-inning homer for the Yankees, who lost the final three games of the series after taking Monday's opener.
"The offense is going to come and go," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The pitching is what sustains you. I'd say we hit six or seven balls really hard that were caught tonight, but they played good defense."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Whitley exits early: Whitley said that he had been battling discomfort in his forearm for at least the last two starts, and that was evident to catcher Brian McCann after seeing back-to-back walks to Asdrubal Cabrera and Joey Butler in the second inning. Head athletic trainer Steve Donohue escorted Whitley to the clubhouse, and Whitley will have an MRI exam performed in Tampa, Fla. The Yanks will have Chris Capuano claim Whitley's rotation spot. More >
"It's frustrating, but I've been dealing with it for a while," Whitley said. "When I first started dealing with it, I gave it to the Lord and it's in his hands. We'll make the best of it."
Rivera raking: It did not take long for Rivera to make his presence felt. With Rogers replacing Whitley, the catcher unloaded on a first-pitch slider, driving it over the fence in center field to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 4-0. In his next at-bat in the fourth, Rivera singled up the middle to bring home David DeJesus. Rivera nearly doubled his RBI total for the season, as he entered with five and drove home four Thursday. More >
"It was a good pitch. I think maybe they were looking for that," Rogers said. "The location was down and away, and he got it."
Ramirez comes through: Ramirez said Wednesday that he wanted to prove to everybody that he was capable of being a starter after two disappointing spot starts earlier in the season. He did just that on Thursday, allowing just one hit -- a single by Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the game -- while striking out four in five innings. More >
"Obviously we want to pay attention to what Erasmo was doing," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He was cruising pretty good, but as far as the pitch count, hopefully we've got him enough where he's built up a little bit more next time out."
Long time coming: Rodriguez's ninth-inning homer, No. 663 of his career, marked the Yankees' first extra-base hit since Mark Teixeira's ninth-inning homer in Monday's series opener. Of Rodriguez's nine homers this season, four have come against the Rays. It also was Rodriguez's 1,000th RBI as a Yankee. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Michael Pineda (5-0, 2.72 ERA) returns to the hill following a 16-strikeout performance in his last outing as the Yankees open a three-game weekend series with the Royals in Kansas City on Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Pineda is 2-2 with a 1.65 ERA in four career starts against the Royals.
Rays:Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 2.09 ERA) takes the mound to kick off a three-game series against the Twins on Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET. In his last start, Odorizzi allowed one run on seven hits, striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings against Texas, all while battling the flu. In three road starts this season, Odorizzi is 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.