NEW YORK (AP) - Steven Souza Jr. celebrated his 27th birthday in style. Drew Smyly was the guy getting all the gifts.
Souza homered twice and the Tampa Bay Rays went deep five times in all, finally giving Smyly some run support Sunday in an 8-1 victory over the New York Yankees.
“We’ve got a lot of thump,” Souza said. “We got off to a slow start. We faced some tough pitchers early on, some real good ones. And this last week and a half or so, guys have really started to fall into their groove.”
Souza and Corey Dickerson each hit a two-run homer in a five-run first inning against Michael Pineda. That was a welcome present for Smyly, who had received three runs of support in his first three starts this year.
Steve Pearce and Logan Forsythe added solo shots to help Tampa Bay prevent a three-game sweep and finish 3-3 on its road trip to Boston and New York.
“It was awesome,” Smyly said. “It makes my job way easier when you have a big lead like that.”
Alex Rodriguez exited with stiffness on his left side, but New York received positive news after the game when results of an MRI on his oblique were negative. No immediate roster move will be made and A-Rod was traveling with the team to Texas, the Yankees said.
The 40-year-old slugger drove in New York’s run with a fourth-inning double off the top of the left-field fence, then was pulled for a pinch hitter in the sixth.
“He was warming up to take his at-bat, is when he felt it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Taking a few swings in the cage.”
“Anytime someone leaves with an oblique, you’re not really optimistic because they take a while depending on the severity of it,” Girardi added before the MRI results were announced. “And I even think sometimes when players physically feel ready, I still don’t think they have the strength that they had before.”
New York completed a 3-6 homestand and lost for the eighth time in 11 games.
Smyly (1-2) went seven innings in his third consecutive strong start. The left-hander allowed six hits and one walk with six strikeouts, five days after dominating the Red Sox.
“I think I’m just starting to kind of understand the hitters, starting to understand myself, have more of a game plan out there,” said Smyly, whose college roommate at Arkansas was AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros. “Every game with experience you learn something new, you get better and better. I’m feeling healthy and things are going well.”
Pineda (1-2) retired his first two batters and was ahead 0-2 on Evan Longoria before he doubled off the center-field fence. Dickerson followed with his fifth homer, deep into the right-field bleachers.
Pearce singled and scored on a double by slumping Brad Miller before Souza homered deep into the left-field stands. With that, the Rays had scored five runs in a span of nine pitches.
Tampa Bay (8-10) scored three runs or fewer in 13 of its first 17 games.
“We’ve been a little bit quiet here and there, but these guys can hit,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Evident today.”
Smyly has a 2.52 ERA in 23 starts since he was acquired from Detroit in a trade for David Price on July 31, 2014. That’s the lowest during that stretch for any American League pitcher who has made at least 15 starts. Smyly ended his outing leading the majors with 33 strikeouts this season.
Souza became the first major leaguer to hit two homers on his birthday since Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe in June 2012. “I’ll play him next year (again),” Cash said. Souza’s opposite-field drive to right in the fifth gave him his second career multihomer game - both this month. Souza is 6 for 12 with three home runs against Pineda.
Rays: LF Desmond Jennings was rested, with Dickerson playing left field and Forsythe the DH. Pearce made his first start at second base for the Rays, one day after his Tampa Bay debut at third.
Yankees: OF Aaron Hicks (left shoulder inflammation) was planning to accompany the team to Texas as the Yankees wait to determine if he needs to go on the 15-day disabled list.
Rays: All-Star RHP Chris Archer (0-4, 7.32 ERA) faces Baltimore RHP Kevin Gausman (season debut) in the opener of an eight-game homestand Monday night. Archer is 0-7 in 10 starts since beating the Orioles on Aug. 31 last year, and hasn’t won at Tropicana Field since June 23. “A big start. Let’s get back home and get him going,” Cash said. “It’s time for us to pick him up. He picked us up quite a bit last year.”
Yankees: A nine-game road trip begins Monday night at Texas, with RHP Nathan Eovaldi (0-2, 6.11 ERA) on the mound for New York.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.