ST. PETERSBURG -- Four Rays pitchers held the Yankees to one run to lead the Rays to 4-1 win over the Yankees on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field. The Rays won the first series of the season, two games to one.
Alex Cobb, who returned from Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2016 season, started for the Rays and looked more like his old self, holding the Yankees to one run on four hits and a walk while striking out four in 5 2/3 innings to earn the win.
"Great performance by [Cobb]," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Great performance by our bullpen. And the defense played really, really well behind the guys."
Corey Dickerson opened the scoring when he homered to lead off the Rays' first. The "barreled ball" to center field against Yankees starter Michael Pineda traveled 418 feet and had an exit velocity of 105.3 mph with a 26-degree launch angle. Jacoby Ellsbury answered for the Yankees in the second with a 384-foot solo shot to right off Cobb that tied the score at 1.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Two-out trouble: The Yankees have been puzzled by Pineda's inability to limit damage, a trend which impacted his outing in the second inning. After Steven Souza Jr. was thrown out at the plate on a fielder's choice, Norris cashed two runs with a sharp single to right field. Following a mound visit, Norris then stole second base on Pineda and scored the Rays' fourth run as Dickerson lashed a single to right field. Pineda's .982 two-out OPS was the second-highest among all pitchers with at least 100 innings last year.
"It just came down to [the fact that] he made some mistakes with his fastball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The big one he made was to Norris. He had two outs, and it looked like he was going to get out of the inning without giving up a run. He just couldn't seem to get the third out and made a couple of mistakes, three hitters in a row with his fastball. It cost him."
Bridging by Erasmo: Ramirez made his first appearance of the season, and it proved to be a big one. The Rays' right-hander successfully navigated the seventh and eighth innings to bridge the way to closer Colome, but it wasn't without some drama. He walked the first batter he faced, only to dodge further trouble by getting Aaron Judge to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. In the eighth, Brett Gardner singled to open the inning, then Ramirez retired the next three hitters he faced to finish his successful two-inning stint.
"I was really just trying to get my timing down. Get a good pitch to hit. Make sure my timing was there. And luckily, I got a good pitch to hit." -- Dickerson, who got the Rays started with his first Major League leadoff home run
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Cobb recorded his first home win since Aug. 21, 2014, vs. Detroit, going 957 days in between. He made five home starts in that span and went 0-3 with two no-decisions.
The Rays unsuccessfully challenged a call at home plate in the second inning, as Souza was ruled out on Mallex Smith's fielder's choice grounder to third baseman Chase Headley, with catcher Gary Sanchez applying the tag. The Rays challenged both that there was no violation of the home-plate collision rule, as well as the out call. Both were upheld after a review of two minutes and 54 seconds.
The Yankees successfully challenged a call at second base in the home half of the second inning, as Kevin Kiermaier was initially ruled safe on a stolen base attempt. A review of 46 seconds overturned the call, ending the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Luis Severino (3-8, 5.38 ERA in 2016) will have the ball on Friday as the Yankees open a three-game series with the Orioles at Camden Yards. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will be on the mound for Baltimore, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. on MLB.TV.
Rays:Blake Snell (6-8, 3.54 in 2016) makes his 2017 debut against the Blue Jays Thursday in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field on MLB.TV. Snell struggled during Spring Training when he went 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA, so there are questions whether he can "flip a switch" once the season starts and suddenly get good results.