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Yankees fall to Pirates in Grapefruit League opener

02/26/2014 4:42 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Carlos Beltran saw his first action as a Yankee on Wednesday against the Pirates.(AP)
The New York Yankees suffered their first loss of the spring on Wednesday, dropping a 6-5 decision to the Pirates in their Grapefruit League opener in Bradenton.

For the Yankees, Ivan Nova was roughed up in his first spring start, retiring just four of the eight hitters he faced and allowing two runs in his 1 1/3 innings, and reliever Chase Whitley gave up four more runs in the sixth to be tagged with the loss.

Pittsburgh's starter, Francisco Liriano, and first reliever Edinson Volquez also struggled, with each allowing two runs in their lone innings, but seven other Pittsburgh relievers combined to allow just one run and four base-runners over the final seven frames en route to the win.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran all made their spring debuts, and while the Yankees' bats were quiet for most of the day, they had to be happy with what they saw from their new acquisitions; Beltran was 0-for-3, but Ellsbury was on base in all three of his plate appearances, walking and scoring twice before singling in the fifth, while McCann was 1-for-2 with an RBI.

As for the game itself, the Yankees actually vaulted out to a 2-0 lead thanks to first-inning RBI singles by McCann and Ramon Flores, and after Nova worked out of a jam in the bottom of the frame, Yangervis Solarte - who got the start at shortstop after Eduardo Nunez was scratched with a stomach bug - picked him up by smashing a two-run homer in the second to make it 4-0.

Nova, however, allowed two of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the second to reach before departing the game, leaving first and third with one out for reliever Bruce Billings; Pittsburgh would take advantage to score both of those runners, with Jordy Mercer ripping an RBI single before Starling Marte reached on a Solarte error to make it 4-2. Later, Billings walked Andrew McCutchen to load the bases with two outs, but got out of the jam by striking out Pedro Alvarez looking.

The middle innings were fairly quiet on both sides, as the Yankees had just two base-runners in the third through sixth innings (with both erased on double plays) while Billings, Dellin Betances (2 IP, 1 H, 2 K) and Whitley allowed just three to reach, erasing two of those on double plays as well. The Yankees then scratched out a two-out tally in the seventh, as Francisco Arcia walked and Mason Williams followed with an RBI double to make it 5-2, but Whitley would come unglued in the bottom of the frame.

Pirates shortstop Alen Hanson led off the inning with a single, and after Whitley hit Jeff Decker with a pitch, catcher Tony Sanchez blasted a three-run homer to center field that tied the game. Whitley was replaced by Preston Claiborne after walking Chris Dickerson, and Claiborne would later allow an RBI single to Chris McGuinness that made it 6-5 Pirates.

The Yankees then went six up, six down in the final two frames, with Jose Gil grounding out to first baseman McGuinness to end it.

For the Bombers, Ellsbury was the offensive star, but Solarte shined as well, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored in the emergency start; on the mound, Betances looked strong in his two innings, and lefty Cesar Cabral allowed one hit and recorded one strikeout in a scoreless ninth.

With the loss, the Yankees drop to 0-1 in the Grapefruit League standings and 1-1 on the spring overall. They will play the Pirates again on Thursday at 1:05 p.m., but this time, it's a home game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. YES will televise the game beginning at 1 p.m., and Derek Jeter is expected to make his spring debut.

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