- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - If only Michael Pineda could make believe games start in the second inning.

His first-inning struggles put the Yankees in a hole they could not overcome Wednesday night.

Salvador Perez hit a three-run homer on a hanging slider as the Kansas City Royals burst to a four-run lead six batters in and rebounded to beat New York 7-3 Wednesday night.

“I know I am better than that,” Pineda said. “I’m putting (up) a lot of zeros. The problem is only in the first inning.”

Winless in his past six starts, Pineda (1-4) has a 15.43 ERA in the first inning this season, allowing 12 runs and 19 hits - five of them homers - in 38 at-bats.

Pineda has given up eight runs in the second, but just one in the third, none in the fourth and three each in the fifth and six innings. After the first, his ERA is 4.26.

“He’ll locate some fastballs and then miss with them. And then the slider, he’ll get swings and misses on it and then leave some of them in the middle of the plate,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “The one common factor that I’ve seen is that when he does get in trouble now, he really starts to overthrow a little bit.”

Six of the first seven Royals reached, interrupted only by Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly. Pineda, a 27-year-old right-hander, settled down and left after a career-high 114 pitches with a 4-3 deficit.

“He has filthy stuff. The guy is really good,” Lorenzo Cain said. “Really good slider, good changeup, good fastball that gets on you really quick.”

Counted on to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind Masahiro Tanaka, Pineda is just 1-4 with a 6.28 ERA. Rothschild said he might have Pineda simulate a few at-bats in his pregame bullpen sessions.

“The stuff is there. We know that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he’s better than what he’s pitched.”

Pineda gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings and walked four, his most since 2011. He needed 36 pitches to get through the first, when Eric Hosmer hit a key grounder that went under Dustin Ackley at first and into right field that put two on with one out.

New York clawed back within a run against Yordano Ventura (3-2). After Pineda left with two outs and two on in the sixth, Nick Goody hit Alcides Escobar on the back with a pitch, then allowed a two-run single to Cain, who had three homers and five RBIs in Tuesday’s 10-7 loss.

Kendrys Morales added a solo homer in the seventh off Phil Coke as the Royals won for just the fourth time in their past 15 games.

After winning the opening two games of the four-game series, the Yankees were hoping to string together three straight victories for the first time since Sept. 1-4. They are 0-5 this year when attempting to win a third consecutive game.

New York was 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have scored just 11 runs during Pineda’s winless streak.

Carlos Beltran’s 399th home run, his third in three days, started New York’s comeback attempt in the second, when Chase Headley hit an RBI single. Starlin Castro, who hasn’t driven in a run since April 27, hit into an inning-ending forceout with the bases loaded.

Rookie Ben Gamel stranded a runner on third in the fourth, and the Yankees got just one run in the fifth after Castro’s double put runners at second and third with no outs. Brian McCann hit an RBI grounder, but Beltran and Ackley grounded out.

Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (hip), first baseman Mark Teixeira (neck) and designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) once again sat out.

Teixeira likely will be the first regular to return.

“He’s hopeful that he’ll be a player for us tomorrow,” Girardi said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (strained left groin) will throw a bullpen session this week and anticipates he will be activated from the DL as soon as May 20, the first day he is eligible. … Girardi said Rodriguez (strained right hamstring) also could be reinstated the first day he is eligible, on May 19, and Ellsbury might play this weekend.

UP NEXT

Nathan Eovaldi (2-2) is scheduled to start for the Yankees in Thursday’s series finale and former Yankee Ian Kennedy (4-2) is slated to pitch for the Royals. Kennedy is among the AL leaders in ERA (2.13) and opponents’ batting average (.209). Eovaldi’s average four-seam fastball velocity of 97.7 mph is the highest among big league starting pitchers this year, according to Baseball Prospectus’ PITCH f/x data.

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