What are we to make of Michael Pineda at this point?
After that 16-strikeout game, he looked like an obvious all-star and perhaps a legitimate ace. Masahiro Tanaka was hurt at the time, but it seemed the Yankees still had their true No. 1. Pineda was seven starts into his season, he’d won five of them, and his ERA was 2.72. He was healthy, and he was dominant.
In the seven starts since, he’s gone 3-4 with a 6.10 ERA.
“Well, nothing’s different,” Pineda said. “Sometimes you go to the mound and you don’t have a really good night and sometimes you have a good night, you know? This is the game. This is the baseball. … It’s very hard to have a game like that, but for me, I’m keeping my head up and continue to work and be ready for my next outing.”
So is there some chance that 16-strikeout game — with the season-high pitch count and whatever it took to rack up so many Ks — might have hurt Pineda in some way? Is that one game not simply the turning point, but the cause of his most recent trouble?
“It’s hard to tell,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “His last time out, he was as good as he was probably at any time. I don’t know that we can have the answer to that. I don’t think that’s the case, but there’s no way to know if it is or isn’t.”
What about getting all of that extra rest earlier this month? Pitching with a week-and-a-half of rest certainly didn’t do Pineda any favors this next time out. Was that a mistake?
“Obviously hindsight is real good,” Rothschild said. “But I think the first thing you have to do is ensure his health, otherwise nothing else matters. You look at it that we need him healthy the whole year. I think if we have him healthy the whole year you’ll see him pitch well. It’s not an easy thing to juggle it around.”
So the Yankees feel a need to limit Pineda’s workload, the see no definite connection to the 16-strikeout game, and Pineda says he feels good and strong even through bad nights like last night. At this point, it seems the Yankees know what Pineda is capable of doing, they’re simply not getting that level of performance on a nightly basis.
“It’s been kind of up and down, and that’s hard to figure out,” Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes they just go through stretches like that, the starters, and then they’ll reel off six or seven good ones in a row. You’ve got to make pitches every time you go out. That’s the bottom line. (Last night) he just didn’t.”
Associated Press photo
Pitching matchups vs. Phillies • 06.22.15
Right now, Wednesday’s game lines up to be Adam Warren’s turn on normal rest, but obviously the Yankees could change things around to have Ivan Nova start that game. With Nova added to the rotation, the Yankees could either move Warren to the bullpen or use a six-man rotation for one turn so that everyone gets an extra day off.
RHP Michael Pineda (8-3, 3.54)
RHP Kevin Correia (0-1, 1.69)
7:05 p.m., WPIX
LHP CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.31)
RHP Sean O’Sullivan (1-5, 4.79)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
LHP Cole Hamels (5-5, 2.69)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
Associated Press photo
Yesterday afternoon, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stepped onto the field to watch a little bit of batting practice. While he was there, he talked to the media for a while. Nothing particularly new came out of it, but the GM did hit on a number of topics that really matter to this team right now, so here are a few highlights:
On the recovery of Jacoby Ellsbury
“We had a timetable. I don’t think we talked about it too much publicly. He was going to be in one of those lineman-looking braces for three weeks. He’s been doing running and stuff in the brace, I think, with some low-level resistance. Obviously doing a lot of strength work. He’s been working his tail off to make sure his quads and his hammys and everything else are not falling behind. … My update through yesterday is he’s busting his tail and doing a lot of functional stuff, but he’s got to have that brace on for three weeks total and he’s just past week two.”
On the decision to have Michael Pineda skip a start
“We’ve just been talking through it. Tanaka obviously got a time out because of the injury he had, so with the off days that we’ve had, it was: all right, let’s try to make a decision here at least on this front end. There’s other avenues to do it if you got a full complement (and) everybody’s healthy. You can always play with a six-man rotation if Nova’s back and everybody’s in line. We’re just trying to find ways to manage it properly so everybody keeps that full tank of gas and doesn’t have fatigue set in too easily, because once fatigue sets in, injuries can happen.”
On the idea of six starter when Ivan Nova is healthy
“It just depends on time of year, how things are functioning, who’s experiencing what. There’s no strict plan as much as (trying to) find ways at times to give people blows is basically what we’re going to try to do. But how we’re going to do it, we’re not sure just yet. … (Nova)’s going to have one (rehab start) in the Florida State League. If that goes fine, he’ll go to Scranton, weather permitting, and at that point we’ll evaluate. I guess it’s possible (he could be back this month). We did build him up to 75 pitches in extended spring so we can keep him on the clock if we feel it’s necessary, or we can pull him if we need him.”
On the dependability of Alex Rodriguez as an everyday player
“It was unpredictable what we were going to get. I could throw out there about the DH spot, it’s not as demanding and we all know that, but I didn’t have any expectations, let alone playing every day as a DH or being productive. He’s been very, very impressive and obviously helpful.”
On lingering foot concerns with Brian McCann
“I’m just thankful every test was negative. (The wrong orthotic) is more likely than not what was causing the issues. We’ll just swap it out and we’ll be able to go on from there and forget that it happened.”
On lingering elbow concerns with Masahiro Tanaka
“I can only speak for myself; I don’t think about it any more. I just think about if he is going to perform. In his last start, given how it was in his two rehab starts, I just wanted him to be productive. I knew he was around an 85-pitch count, so I didn’t know if we were going to be deep in the pen or not. My God, he was tremendous. I wasn’t worried about health. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen.”
Associated Press photos
When Brian McCann talked about his sore right foot on Wednesday, the concern was obvious in the tone of his voice. His answers were short. His delivery cautious. He’d been unable to stay in a crouch that afternoon, and it takes a lot for McCann to admit he can’t play.
So when he slipped into that MRI machine yesterday, he was worried. Today, he’s relieved.
No plantar fasciitis. No Lisfranc injury. The arch of McCann’s foot is like a set of bad eyes, and it’s prescription has changed. McCann was given a new set of orthotics. He caught a bullpen session today just to test them out and declared himself ready to play.
“I had the same old (orthotics) for the last three years,” he said. “And the arch on my foot has changed. I needed to get new ones. Once it got inflamed, it was harder to calm down. … I think this will take care of it.”
Losing McCann would have been a significant blow to both the lineup and the pitching staff, but the Yankees are hopeful they’ve made it through this scare while only losing McCann for eight innings.
Joe Girardi posted a late lineup today because he wanted to make sure McCann could catch with no problem. After catching a pen, McCann said he was good to go.
“It only flared up when I caught,” McCann said. “Walking around it didn’t flare up, but once I got in my squat and moved around (it hurt). That’s what we’ve been waiting for today. Went out there and didn’t flare up.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury has started going light baseball activities. He did a set of 10 40-yard sprints at about 50-percent effort. He also took dry swings in the cage and played catch. “He is obviously getting better,” Girardi said. “I don’t have a date when he’ll be a player for me, but it’s better than when we left because he wasn’t doing anything like that.”
• Carlos Beltran’s foot is still sore after that foul ball on Tuesday. The expectation is that he’ll be available to pinch hit, but he’s out of the lineup for a second game in a row. “The concern that you have there, besides it being really sore, is that he favors that and hurts something else,” Girardi asid. “We’ll shoot for tomorrow.”
• Brendan Ryan’s rehab assignment has been shifted to Double-A Trenton.
• Ivan Nova will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa on Monday. He will be scheduled for 80-85 pitches. He could be a big league option soon after that. “Right now we have him scheduled for at least two more (including Monday),” Girardi said. “Then we’ll go from there to see where he’s at.”
• No plans to immediate add a right-handed reliever, but the Yankees will almost certainly do that at some point (I guess it could happen when Nova comes back). “As of right now, it is what it is,” Girardi aid. “If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t predict that we would have that many left-handers in there the rest of the season. But right now, it is what it is.”
• Forgot to mention this in the previous post about limiting Michael Pineda’s innings: Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a specific number of innings they’d like Pineda to pitch, they just know that well over 200 is too many. “I have not been given a number,” Giradri aid. “We have not talked a number as an organization. But we know that 220 is out of the question, in our mind, for the regular season.”
• While he’s out of the rotation, there’s some chance Pineda could be available in an extra-inning situation either Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The Yankees won’t plan to use him that day, but if they got into a crazy game, Girardi wouldn’t rule it out. “I think you’d have to say that that’s a possibility if he hadn’t thrown a side that day,” Girardi aid. “He’ll still continue to do his sides, but as we know there’s much less intensity there and you want to keep him as sharp as you can.”
Associated Press photos
Early on, this game was more of the same. Just the familiar Yankees looking hopeless against a good starting pitcher. The game was scoreless, but after three innings, it was hard to have much confidence that the Yankees were against going to win, much less win in an impressive manner.
But they chipped away in the fourth inning, loaded the bases in the fifth, and then Mark Teixeira delivered the big blow with a grand slam. Just like that, the team that just lost three of four in Oakland, was on its way to a fairly lopsided win against Felix Hernandez.
“It felt big,” Teixeira said. “The way Michael was pitching, we didn’t know how many we needed. Any time you can score seven runs off Felix Hernandez, you take it. It doesn’t happen very much. That was a good team effort today. We just played really good ball.”
And when the Yankees play really good ball, they actually look like a really good team.
The Yankees have scored in double digits four times this season. Those were games started by David Price, Clay Buchholz, Alex Colome and Jeremy Guthrie — not all superstars, but certainly not all no-name bums. Those games were two of the worst of Price’s and Guthrie’s careers, and it’s still Colome’s only loss of the season. The Yankees have also beaten Jacob deGrom this year, they’ve scored six runs against Gio Gonzalez, and they’ve been the only team to do any sort of real damage against Chris Young.
They’ve also looked thoroughly hopeless against Erasmo Ramirez.
“It’s hard to figure out,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s just, it’s a long season. Things don’t make sense a lot of times. For whatever reason, I don’t really know, but it happens.”
The Yankees looked hopeless again in the first three innings against Hernandez. He needed just six pitches to get through the first inning, nine to get through the second, and six more to get through the third. Then, all of a sudden, Hernandez allowed five base runners on 31 pitches in the fourth. And the fifth inning was even worse.
“I think when you’re facing a guy like that, you really have to grind (at-bats) out,” Chase Headley said. “I thought we had a lot of good at-bats that preceded the big blow. The stuff looked good. I thought the ball was moving. Honestly, I thought we just did a good job of laying off some tough pitches. That was the difference.”
As they’ve done several times this season, the Yankees looked like a really impressive team in those fourth and fifth innings. They showed patience and power at the plate, Michael Pineda was pitching well — five strikeouts in his half of those innings — and they built a big league against one of the game’s truly elite pitchers.
This was, in so many ways, the Yankees at their best. The previous four games were, at times, the Yankees at their worst.
“It only takes a couple of good at-bats and fortunes change,” Headley said.
• Asked which was more impressive, the offensive outburst against Hernandez or the first six innings from Pineda, Girardi debated for a while before saying the offense was perhaps a little more impressive tonight. But Pineda really was very, very good. The seventh inning got away from him, but through six innings Pineda kept the Mariners scoreless with ninth strikeouts. “Tonight, everything is working good,” Pineda siad. “I had really good power today, and my changeup was working well, my slider too. … I’m trying to attack the hitters, and pitch my game.”
• Girardi said he was actually a little bit worried about Pineda coming into this game. Although it’s been more than three years since the trade, this was actually Pineda’s first time pitching back in Seattle as a member of the Yankees. “I think he handled it pretty well,” Girardi said. “I always worry about those type of things when guys come back to face their old team for the first time, but I think he handled it really well.”
• Pineda on pitching back at Safeco Field: “I’m very excited today for this game, I’m very happy to be here again and pitching in Safeco field. I’m happy tonight. … It’s good, you know? I had really good focus today, and tried to do the best on the mound.”
• Any extra meaning to beating Hernandez, who had been kind of a mentor in Seattle? “It’s a great game for me today,” Pineda said. “My first year in the majors, I stayed around Felix and learned a lot from him. Tonight, pitching versus him, it’s a really good game.”
• There’s a retractable roof here in Seattle, but it was open for a little bit of rain just as Hernandez started having some trouble. He seemed to be having some trouble with the mound, but Hernandez said that wasn’t the cause of his struggles. “I was just kicking dirt out of my cleats,” Hernandez said. “But it’s not that. It was just one of those days. It was on me.”
• Strong outing by Justin Wilson to strand two runners and get the Yankees out of the seventh without further damage. The Mariners could have pulled back into the game at that point, but Wilson shut them down. “He’s got a great arm,” Girardi said. “We’ve kind of put him in our seventh inning slot a little bit, and he did a really good job today the way he came in and he gets the strikeout and then the double play. I mean, that’s huge. And he’s facing right-handed hitters. It doesn’t matter for Willy. We don’t look at Willy as a left-handed specialist. We look at both, and again he did the job.”
• The grand slam was the ninth of Teixeira’s career. It was also his sixth career home run against Hernandez. Teixeira is a career .303 hitters with four doubles, 13 RBI and nine walks in 66 career at-bats against Hernandez. “I think it’s a lot of luck,” Teixeira said. “He’s a great pitcher. I’ve faced him so much, there’s very few guys that for 10-plus years you face on a regular basis. He’s one of them. I’ve just gotten a couple good pitches to hit.”
• Last Yankees player to hit a grand slam in Seattle was Bernie Williams on May 16, 2005 against J.J. Putz.
• Teixeira’s six home runs against Hernandez are his second-most against any pitcher. He’s hit seven off Bruce Chen. No hitter has more career home runs against Hernandez. Current Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz has gone deep on King Felix five times.
• Brett Gardner had a hit, a walk and two runs scored. Since 2013, Gardner has a hit in 11 of 14 games against the Mariners hitting .321 with seven runs, five walks and six stolen bases in those games. During that stretch he’s hit .393 with four doubles in eight games at Safeco Field.
• Several Yankees said basically the same thing about Hernandez: “His stuff moves so much, I think that’s what got him into trouble a little bit. His stuff was moving so much, it was tough to control and he walked a few guys. Give our hitters credit; they didn’t swing at the bad pitches when he threw them. We made the adjustments. It’s not because he didn’t have his stuff tonight; it was just moving so much.”
• Final word goes to Headley: “It’s great. If (Hernandez) is not the best in the game, he’s right there with the best in the game. When you’re playing a guy like him, you”ve just got to go out there and really try to grind, and scratch a couple of runs across. You feel pretty good and then obviously we got the big blow. Those things don’t happen very often with that type of pitcher. It’s a good win for us coming off a couple of tough games in Oakland.”
Associated Press photos
Game 52: Yankees at Mariners • 06.01.15
RHP Michael Pineda (6-2, 3.36)
Pineda vs. Mariners
Logan Morrison 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nelson Cruz RF
Kyle Seager 3B
Seth Smith DH
Austin Jackson CF
Brad Miller SS
Mike Zunino C
Dustin Ackley LF
RHP Felix Hernandez (8-1, 1.91)
Hernandez vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 10:10 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: A little chilly and cloudy, so the roof is closed.
UMPIRES: HP Tony Randazzo, 1B Mike DiMuro, 2B Will Little, 3B Phil Cuzzi
SUCCESS AGAINST THE KING: Mark Teixeira is actually a career .297/.370/.594 hitter in 64 career at-bats against Felix Hernandez. Brett Gardner has also had some success with a .333/.379/.407 slash line in 27 at-bats (Jacoby Ellsbury also has good numbers against Hernandez, though it obviously doesn’t matter today). The other Yankees with more than 20 at-bats against Hernandez are Alex Rodriguez (.261/.400/.261) and Chase Headley (.208/.240/.208).
A-ROD STREAKING: Pineda’s not the only former Mariners player back in town tonight. Alex Rodriguez is here with a 10-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .405 with seven run, a double, a home run, five RBI and three walks. This is his first double-digit hitting streak of the year.
ON THIS DATE: On June 1, 1925 Lou Gehrig began his record streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. It started with a pinch hit at-bat in place of Pee Wee Wanninger in a 5-3 loss to Washington.
UPDATE, 10:20 p.m.: Pretty easy first inning for both Hernandez and Pineda. This ballpark really is quite a bit of fun when Felix is on the mound. I’m sold on the King’s Court thing. Rock solid local tradition.
UPDATE, 10:26 p.m.: Six up, six down for Felix.
UPDATE, 10:31 p.m.: As long as he hits, I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but Beltran really doesn’t move around very well in right. Just not a good outfielder at this stage of his career. Been that way for a while, actually.
UPDATE, 10:38 p.m.: Got some help from McCann on a caught stealing, but Pineda’s more or less keeping pace so far. Not as dominant as Felix through two innings, but it’s still scoreless heading into the third.
UPDATE, 10:47 p.m.: Pineda gets a 4-6-3 double play and he’s through the third. Felix has a perfect game going. Pineda has a shutout. This is pretty much the pitching matchup we were hoping to see.
UPDATE, 10:52 p.m.: Gardner breaks up the perfect game/no hitter with a single to left.
UPDATE, 10:55 p.m.: Single by Headley. Gardner was running with the pitch, but still a nice job of base running to realize Jackson wouldn’t catch the low line drive. Runners at the corners with no outs and the middle of the order coming to the plate.
UPDATE, 10:56 p.m.: Wild pitch, Gardner scores and the Yankees have a fourth-inning lead on Felix Hernandez.
UPDATE, 11:03 p.m.: McCann bangs into a double play, but with the bases loaded, one run scores and Rodriguez is still at third base with two outs and Beltran at the plate. A 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth isn’t too bad considering the guy on the mound.
UPDATE, 11:29 p.m.: Grand slam for Mark Teixeira. These weird, unpredictable Yankees are beating up on Felix Hernandez. They have a 7-0 lead with one out in the fifth inning.
UPDATE, 11:41 p.m.: Felix knocked out of the game in the fifth. Yankees are up 7-0. Pineda has been dealing.
UPDATE, 12:15 a.m.: Single, triple, double to start the seventh inning for the Mariners. They have their first runs of the game, and Pineda is having trouble for the first time all night. Still a 7-2 Yankees lead, though.
On September 10, 2011, Michael Pineda went eight innings in the final home start of his standout rookie season. He was a 22-year-old kid with a big fastball, a good slider and — it seemed — a bright future at Safeco Field.
He hasn’t pitched in Seattle since.
More than three years after he was traded to the Yankees, Pineda will finally return to Seattle tonight for a must-see matchup with Mariners’ ace — and former teammate — Felix Hernandez.
For a while, it seemed Hernandez and Pineda might form a lasting one-two punch at the top of the Mariners’ rotation, but in January of 2012 — just months after Pineda’s all-star rookie season came to an end — Seattle sent their young right hander across the country for top Yankees’ prospect Jesus Montero.
Since then, Pineda’s been on the disabled list for every Yankees’ trip to Seattle, and Montero has been largely a bust. He’s currently stuck in Triple-A.
When players leave a team via free agency or trade, they often get a chance to matchup against their former teams fairly quickly. Pineda’s history of shoulder injuries has delayed this moment long enough that Pineda said he’s not really in contact with any current Mariners.
“Players, I don’t necessarily think they take it personally, but you always want to do better against your old team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “… Just go out and do your thing. If I sense something (different) early on, then I’ll say something.”
Hernandez was already a perennial Cy Young candidate by the time Pineda arrived in Seattle. Now Pineda’s return happens to coincide with a tough matchup for Yankees’ hitters, about as tough as it gets in the American League.
“He’s the King, you know?” Pineda said. “He’s a great pitcher and I love to see him. I had a great time when I was there, seeing Felix Hernandez pitching. … He teach me a lot. I learned a lot of things that had to do with being here in the major leagues. Dressing, how to take the bus, checking the board; little things that I needed, he explained them to me. … It’s a little thing, but it was very important for me because I didn’t know.”
The idea of returning to Seattle, of pitching against his former team, of matching up against the guy who showed him the ropes, generate a bunch of typical Pineda smiles and laughs yesterday morning. Pineda’s healthy and happy these days. Getting back to Seattle took a lot longer than he expected, but Pineda pitched well last time out, and he’s excited to get back on that mound.
“It’s going to be a great game,” he said. “I want to win it.”
Associated Press photos
Pitching matchups in Kansas City • 05.15.15
The Yankees could adjust their rotation to use Chris Capuano on Sunday, but as of now, it’s still listed as everyone staying on turn through the weekend. Joe Girardi said the team hasn’t decided whether to activate Capuano right away, but he last pitched a rehab game on Tuesday.
RHP Michael Pineda (5-0, 2.72)
RHP Chris Young (2-0, 0.78)
8:10 p.m., WPIX
LHP CC Sabathia (1-5, 5.20)
LHP Danny Duffy (2-2, 5.67)
7:10 p.m., WPIX
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (3-1, 4.14)
RHP Edinson Volquez (2-3, 3.19)
2:10 p.m. YES Network and MLB Network
Associated Press photo
I remember a few things about the Yankees’ trade for Michael Pineda.
I remember I’d just walked into a restaurant, sat at a table and ordered drinks when the whole thing went down. I remember one talent evaluator telling me the least risky part of the entire deal was Jesus Montero’s bat, which was close to a sure thing. And I remember every Yankees person I talked to stressing that it would be several years before anyone knew whether they’d “won” the trade.
Well, it’s been several years now, and would anyone prefer to be on the Mariners’ side?
There’s still plenty of injury risk in Pineda’s right shoulder, and I’m not sure Montero — at 25 years old — will never have any sort of big league impact, but Pineda has been one of the best pitchers in the big leagues while Montero is still hitting home runs in Triple-A.
“I’m a happy guy, I’m always smiling,” Pineda said. “Especially when you have a game like (last night), your heart is happy. Your family sees you. Everything is happy. I’m happy.”
Easy to see why, because Pineda’s seen the bad, and now he’s living the good.
Take the Montero cost out of the equation, and the Yankees still had plenty of reasons to be worried about Pineda during his early years in the organization. His shoulder was hurt, then it was hurt again. He had a drunk driving arrest. He had two years in the organization before he’d seen a big league game.
But now that he’s arrived, Pineda has been even better than the guy acquired in that blockbuster deal of 2012. His changeup — which scouts universally questioned back then — has become a legitimate weapon. His arm strength and accuracy have returned. He’s more comfortable in the spotlight and more confident, it seems, with himself.
“I think you have a time to reflect about what you’re doing and who you are when you’re not in the midst of a season, and you’re in the midst of fighting to keep your career going because of an injury,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think you have time to reflect. And he was young. A lot of those guys (should be) maybe just a year out of college when we got them, or still in college, and I know I wasn’t the wisest person at that age either. Not that I am now either, but I had some growing up to do, and I think that’s what you’ve seen. You’ve seen him mature.”
Because Pineda already had a year in the big leagues when the Yankees traded for him, the trade seemed to be framed as if it were a prospect-for-veteran swap, but it wasn’t. Pineda was still a work in progress on the mound and off the field.
He was a kid, too.
Pineda’s had to clear hurdles of health, performance and maturity. He’s still having to clear those hurdles, but with every one he passes — especially when he clears it with room to spare like last night — Pineda further distances himself. Right now, he’s a standout. Maybe not a perfectly finished product, but better than he was three and a half years ago when the Yankees gave up their biggest trade chip to take a chance on a big kid with a huge right arm.
“I’m really grown up in the last couple years,” Pineda said. “A little thing happened with me. I love playing baseball, and I love baseball, so I want to continue to play my career. Everything that happened with me, is in the past. I’m getting older too, I’m a better person and a better man.”
And the Yankees are better for it.
Associated Press photo
There are plenty of statistical and historical ways to explain how dominant Michael Pineda was this afternoon.
With 16 strikeouts, he tied David Wells and David Cone for the second-most strikeouts by a Yankees pitcher in a single game. It’s been more than two years since any Major League pitcher had as many. It was only the seventh time since 1900 that a pitcher had at least 16 strikeouts in seven innings or less. No one in franchise history had ever recorded this many strikeouts without issuing a walk, and no one in the big leagues had done it since Johan Santana back in 2007.
“I think it has to be location,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think it has to be outstanding mix of your pitches. Your breaking ball has to be sharp. I thought he used his slider and changeup extremely well today. And he has deception. There’s a lot of things that have to go right to get 16 strikeouts in 21 outs, and he did it today.”
Those were the nuts and bolts of it, but anecdotally, this was the emotion of it. When Manny Machado went down looking at a slider in the fifth inning, the ball broke at the knees, swept across the bottom of the zone, and Machado smashed his bat onto plate. When the bat didn’t snap in half, Machado turned toward the dugout and flung the useless piece of wood to the dirt.
“A couple of (pitches), they were great pitches, right on the corner, right at the knees,” Brian McCann said. “They were perfect pitches. It’s not fun facing him. … He’s a dominant pitcher. He really is. He’s a guy that not many people want to face.”
This was, more or less, Pineda at his very best. He was able to work with his fastball, changeup and slider. He pounded the zone for yet another no-walk game (he’s had no walks in four of his seven starts this season; and never more that one walk all year). He reached a career-high 11 pitches, which was perhaps the only downside. But if that’s the downside — that Pineda lasted only through the seventh inning — the Yankees will gladly take it every time.
“In the first inning, I threw the first slider, I said oh, everything is working good today,” Pineda said. “… I don’t know how to explain to you how happy I am right now. But I’m very happy now.”
Pineda was animated postgame. He’s had a very happy, energetic personality for a couple of years now, but this was over the top. He was shaking his fist at one point, talking about how much he enjoyed going after all of those strikeouts. He recalled his final minor league start in 2008 when he went nine innings with one hit, no walks and 14 strikeouts.
“A really good game in the minor leagues and I’m happy with that,” he said. “But today is the best game. I had more strike ‘em outs than any game I’m pitching. I say thank you God, thank you to the team for giving me this opportunity, and I’m very happy.”
Strike ‘em outs. That’s what Pineda kept calling them, and who are we to argue?
“That’s as good as we’ve seen him,” Girardi said. “He recorded 21 outs and 16 of them were strikeouts. He was able to give most of the bullpen a day off today, and we needed that. But, God, he was really good.”
• Carlos Beltran hit his first home run since August 23. He missed a second-inning home run by about two feet, then got one out in the fifth. Through 32 at-bats this month, Beltran has hit .313 with six RBI in nine games. He’s struck out only twice, and already has nearly as many doubles this month (four) as he had all of last month (five). “Just being able to be consistent and have consistent at-bats, that’s the most important thing,” Beltran said. “I know that if I do that, (good results) will happen. It’s hard to think about the opposite without feeling good at the plate.”
• Although Chris Young has taken some a lot of starts against lefties, Beltran more or less stayed in the regular lineup even through last month’s struggles. These past 10 days seem to be an indication that he’s turning things around. “I think that he’s swung a lot better in the last 10 days since we had that off day before Boston,” Girardi said. “I think he’s swung the bat a lot better, and we’ve seen it. You just running him out there because you know it’s going to change. It’s not fun when you’re going through it, but he’s too good of a hitter for it to last.”
• After Pineda was finished, Dellin Betances added two strikeouts of his own to give the Yankees 18 total tonight. That ties a franchise record for the most team strikeouts in a nine-inning game (they’ve now done it three times, once when Ron Guidry did it all by himself).
• Didi Gregorius went 2-for-3 with two RBI, matching his season highs for hits and RBI in a game.
• Great bit of base running by Chase Headley to score the go-ahead run in the fourth inning. When Delmon Young threw behind Headley to third base, Headley broke for home and scored easily. At the time, it felt key. The Yankees wouldn’t really take control until a batter later when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled in two runs. “Really a smart play,” Girardi said. “You want your base runners to be heads up. A coach can’t always do everything for you, and you’ve got to make some decisions on yourself. He made a very wise decision.”
• Back to Pineda: He threw 111 pitches, which was a career high. Girardi said he didn’t know Pineda was two strikeouts away from a franchise record, and frankly, he didn’t care. “You have to remember Michael’s coming off a pretty serious injury,” Girardi said. “What he had is not something is not in the back of my mind in managing him through the course of a season. He doesn’t have that injury, maybe it’s a different story.”
• Pineda has three starts with at least seven strikeouts and no walks this season, most in baseball. It’s the first time since at least 1914 a Yankees pitcher has ever had three such starts within his team’s first 32 games. In that time, only 11 pitchers have pulled it off with any team. “All pitchers want to throw strikes,” Pineda said. “For me, it’s the best thing, to throw strikes to hitters, and that’s what I’m doing, so I’m happy with that. I’m really happy because this is a really good game and I’m very happy.”
• J.J. Hardy’s home run in the second inning gave Hardy three home runs in nine career at-bats against Pineda. It was the first homer Pineda had allowed since April 19. Pineda had faced 11 consecutive batters at home without allowing a home run.
• The Yankees are now 6-0 in games following a loss since they last lost consecutive games on April 14-15 in Baltimore. According to Elias, every other Major League team has had back-to-back losses in that span.
• Final word goes to Girardi talking about the pink gear used for today’s game: “I don’t think it’s a hard thing for athletes to do because I think you reflect how important your mothers were to you and women who go through breast cancer. I think all of us probably know someone who went through it. For me, I watched my sister go through it, and it’s difficult. Whatever we can do to bring awareness to it, support it, get rid of this disease, hey, we’re all in.”
Associated Press photos