ST. PETERSBURG -- LHP Drew Smyly had an impressive home debut as a Ray, and if not for one pitch, he might have headed home a winner.
And it wasn’t a bad pitch that Yankees 2B Martin Prado hit into the left field seats with two outs in the second inning for the first runs of the Yankees 3-2 victory inside a sold-out Tropicana Field.
“I like the pitch,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought that was a good piece of hitting by Prado. Sometimes after a game you say the guy made one mistake. He didn’t make a mistake. The guy did a good job of hitting. I thought it was a good pitch at that moment.”
Prado hit a fastball on an 0-2 pitch.
“That was a good pitch,” Smyly said. “That was right where I wanted it to be, elevated fastball, two strikes. I was shocked he was able to hit it that far, but you’ve got to tip your cap.”
The homer followed a nine-pitch at-bat by 3B Chase Headley that ended in a walk -- the first base runner Smyly allowed during the game. Smyly quickly got ahead 0-2 then tried to get Prado to chase a high fastball.
“I was down in the count, so I was just hoping that he can make a mistake,” said Prado, who snapped a 1-for-19 slump with the home run. “He actually threw a fastball and left it up, and I put the best swing I could probably put on it.”
Smyly allowed four hits in his seven innings to put together strong back-to-back to outings after pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings in last Monday’s win at Texas.
“Smyly was outstanding,” Maddon said.
Smyly has allowed three runs or less in all three of his starts.
Helly looking to go 3-for-3
RHP Jeremy Hellickson is hoping to extend his streak of solid outings to three this afternoon when he pitches the finale of this three-game series.
He put together a pair of strong starts in his previous two outings, after he allowed a run in seven innings at Oakland and six shutout innings last Tuesday at Texas.
Maddon said Hellickson’s fastball has its familiar snap at the end and his changeup is its normal outstanding self. Maddon said he would like to see Hellickson continue to use his fastball more.
Having command of his pitches coincides with Hellickson finally pitching himself into the form needed to be successful against major league hitters. His elbow surgery in late January wiped out his spring training, and it’s tough for a pitcher to get up to major league speed during minor league rehab starts.
“And then everybody else was already in mid-season form when he shows up, so you have to consider all that stuff,” Maddon said. “You can tell with Helly, his confidence is definitely growing, he feels better about himself. He feels he can do this like he did in the past.”
The Rays recalled INF Vince Belnome from Triple A Durham, and as he did when he was recalled July 3 for his first promotion to the big leagues, Belnome found himself in the starting lineup as the DH.
Maddon did that because left-handers have more success against Yankees LHP Shane Greene than righties. Lefties entered the game hitting .244 against Greene while righties were batting .203.
Belnome was 0-for-2 with a walk. He was lifted in the ninth inning for pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer.
Belnome replaced RHP Brandon Gomes, who was optioned to Durham after Friday’s game.
With the bullpen back in order after a pair of light workdays, the Rays felt they needed an additional position player over an eighth reliever.
The Rays extended their team record of allowing three or fewer runs a game to 12 ... LHP Jake McGee lost for the first time since July 28, 2013 against the Yankees at New York. Since then he was 6-0 with 13 saves. Three of McGee’s eight career losses were against the Yankees ... OF David DeJesus (left hand fracture) was 0-for-1 with a walk and a run Saturday in a rehab start with the GCL Rays ... Yankee SS Derek Jeter’s go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning was his 12th career go-ahead hit in the ninth inning or later.