ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Rich Hill pitched six strong innings, Austin Meadows led a hit parade against Corey Kluber and the Yankees’ bullpen, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees, 10-5, Friday to snap a four-game skid.
Hill, a 41-year-old lefty who’s played 17 seasons with 10 teams, allowed four runs and four hits — all with two outs in the third inning — before retiring his final 10 batters.
Hill (1-0) struck out seven without issuing a walk, and Tampa Bay scored five early runs off Kluber (0-1) in his second start for the Yankees. Meadows had three of the Rays’ 13 hits, one of five Tampa Bay players with a multi-hit game.
Aaron Hicks and D.J. LeMahieu homered for the Yankees, who have dropped nine of 11 regular season meetings against the reigning A.L. champions.
The Rays’ home opener drew a socially-distanced crowd of 9,021 to Tropicana Field, where fans had not watched them since Oct. 8, 2019, Game 4 of that year’s A.L. division series against the Houston Astros.
With the teams standing along the first- and third-base lines for pregame introductions, the Yankees were forced to watch a video recap of Tampa Bay’s 2020 success, which included the Rays’ third A.L. East title, a victory over the Yankees in the A.L.D.S. and the franchise’s second pennant.
The salute was capped by the unveiling of two banners commemorating the latest division title and AL crown.
“Any time you win a division and you’re representing the American League getting to the World Series, I think that speaks clearly enough to how talented the group was, how special the team was,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash said before the game.
The Rays proceeded to rough up Kluber, scoring two unearned runs in the second inning and chasing the Yankees starter with three runs to regain the lead after falling behind by 4-2 in the third.
Joey Wendle’s two-run double off reliever Nick Nelson drove in the final two runs charged to Kluber, who allowed five runs — three earned — and five hits in two and a third innings. On the way to building the lead to 9-4, Brandon Lowe drove in three with a fourth-inning double.
The Yankees played without slugger Aaron Judge, who sat out a second consecutive game with soreness in his left side. Gio Urshela was also out of the lineup after being placed on the Covid-19 injured list because of side effects from a vaccination.
Blue Jays May be Buffalo-Bound
The Toronto Blue Jays, who are prevented from playing in their home park because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, held Thursday’s home opener in front of 1,348 fans at TD Park in Dunedin, Fla., but their days of calling a spring training facility home may be numbered. The team’s Class AAA affiliate in Buffalo announced on Friday that it would be temporarily relocating to Trenton, N.J., while its stadium, Sahlen Field, is upgraded to major league standards.
In a letter to fans, the Bisons suggested the changes would allow for “the potential return of the Blue Jays to Sahlen Field.”
There is no timetable for the Blue Jays to relocate from Florida to Buffalo — it is not even guaranteed that it will happen — but preparations are being made just in case. Toronto had pledged to call Dunedin home for at least the first three homestands of the season. BENJAMIN HOFFMAN
The Latest on Coronavirus Testing
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced the latest round of coronavirus testing results on Friday.
In the weekly results, 12,494 tests were conducted and only four new positives (one M.L.B. player, one alternative site player and two staff members) were reported. To date, the league had conducted 105,633 tests, either in monitoring or intake situations, with 43 total positives. Yet 20 of the league’s 30 teams have had at least one positive from an individual covered by the testing. BENJAMIN HOFFMAN