NEW YORK (AP) — Greg Bird busted out of his slump with a long home run that began a perfect night at the plate, and Michael Pineda pitched the New York Yankees past the staggering St. Louis Cardinals 9-3 on Sunday for their seventh straight victory.
Aaron Hicks also hit a homer and Aaron Judge was robbed of one by a fan in the bleachers, forcing the young Yankees bopper to settle for an RBI triple. New York chased Adam Wainwright (0-3) in the fifth and finished a three-game sweep that left St. Louis at 3-9, the worst record in the National League and its poorest start since 1988.
His cap cocked to the side, Pineda (2-1) went seven innings in a sharp follow-up to his dominant outing last Monday, when he retired the first 20 Tampa Bay batters and struck out 11 over 7 2/3 innings for an 8-1 victory in New York’s home opener.
Pineda’s strong encore was an especially encouraging sign for the Yankees, looking for a steady season from a talented pitcher who has been maddeningly inconsistent during his tenure with the team.
Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes, the bottom two batters in the order, each had a two-run double against reliever Miguel Socolovich during a five-run eighth that made it 9-2. That capped New York’s sweep of an early interleague series between two of baseball’s most successful and storied franchises.
The Yankees have won their first six home games for the first time since opening 7-0 in the Bronx in 1998.
Chase Headley, who also had a perfect night at the plate, singled to start the second, and Judge hit a drive to deep right-center, where a fan reached out just next to the auxiliary scoreboard hoping to catch a home run. The ball popped out of the man’s mitt and back into play, triggering a fan interference call by the umpires.
Following a replay review that lasted nearly three minutes, the ruling stood and Judge remained at third with an RBI triple — even though it appeared his shot would have cleared the fence if not for the eager fan.
Bird made all that moot for the Yankees when he sent Wainwright’s next pitch way over the right-field wall and into the elevated bleachers for his first home run since Oct. 1, 2015, against Boston.
The 24-year-old first baseman missed last season while recovering from right shoulder surgery after hitting 11 homers in 46 games as a rookie in 2015.
Following an outstanding spring, Bird began the night 1 for 26 this season and hitless in his past 20 at-bats. But manager Joe Girardi said before the game he saw some good signs Saturday and was committed to keeping the youngster in the lineup.
“I think he has to play through this to get to the other side,” Girardi said. “There’s a little bit of a track record, and we really believe that he’s going to hit.”
Bird also doubled in the fourth, walked in the sixth and singled in the eighth. Hicks added a solo homer off Wainwright in the fifth.
Yadier Molina’s leadoff homer in the seventh made it 4-2, but Pineda maintained his poise and retired the next three batters.
Cardinals: 1B Matt Carpenter was hit in the bare hand by Hicks’ first-inning groundout and appeared to damage the nail on his right ring finger. A trainer worked on Carpenter, who initially had blood streaming all over his hand. He remained in the game.
Yankees: DH Matt Holliday (stiff lower back) sat out for the second consecutive day against his former team, denying him a chance to face good buddy Wainwright. Holliday felt much better, according to Girardi, and the manager said he would be surprised if Holliday wasn’t available to play Monday night.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23 ERA) faces Pittsburgh RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25) in the opener of a three-game series Monday night back home in St. Louis.