After a deflating series loss against Oakland, Yankees brought on their ace (Michael Pineda, of course) against Mariners’ ace — Felix Hernandez. For the first three innings, it looked like a pitchers’ duel with Hernandez having the edge … then things fell apart for him. Yankees scored seven runs combined in fourth and fifth innings, capped by Mark Teixeira’s grand slam. On the flip side, Pineda delivered another great outing to earn his seventh win of the season. If only Jesus Montero was in Mariners’ lineup. (Yes, I’m cruel.)
Big Mike’s Homecoming
Prior to the seventh inning, Michael Pineda was just simply, well, awesome. The big guy threw six innings, struck out nine and, very uncharacteristically, walked two. Maybe that bad mound condition also got to him (/tongueincheek).
In the first six innings, Pineda had it all going – he located his mid-90’s fastball very well, sometimes just almost automatically into Brian McCann’s glove, and his secondary pitches – change and slider – were on point. It seemed like he got swings-and-misses and called strikes on all three of them and that’s what the Yankees looked for when they traded for him – a future ace.
In the seventh inning perhaps he ran out of gas; he allowed four baserunners in a row – single, RBI triple, RBI double and a walk. Joe Girardi then pulled him for Justin Wilson. The lefty did not allow any more runs to keep Pineda’s earned runs at two. Pineda now has a 3.33 ERA/2.38 FIP in 70.1 IP with a 7-2 record this year. Not bad!
Offense Explodes Against… Felix Hernandez???
The Yankees struck in the 4th inning. Well, “struck” may be a bit of a generous term but they did score two against Felix after not managing a baserunner prior! It’s not often that you see a guy like Hernandez allow three walks in a frame. He’s a tough pitcher and the ways the Yankees got runs that inning … weren’t the strongest. Brett Gardner scored on a wild pitch during an Alex Rodriguez at-bat and McCann grounded into a double play with bases loaded and no outs – hence, a 2-0 lead. It’s kind of a mixed feeling – you had a bases loaded with no outs with a run in but you only managed to score one more – but then again, it was against Felix Hernandez. It’s like getting a B on a hard exam: the result is there against a tough task but you could have done much better. Oh well.
Well, Felix allowed a walk to Stephen Drew (who came into the game 1-for-28 in the previous 9 games) the next inning so that was a bit of a rough stretch for him. Ramon Flores followed it up with a single to right. Gardner worked a hard-fought walk (after several checked swing calls) to get the bases-loaded with no outs again. Chase Headley hit a sac fly to drive a run in, 3-0. A-Rod squibbed a grounder through the hole to load the bases again.
Up comes Mark Teixeira and he crushed a 91 mph fastball down the middle over the left field fence: grand slam! It was the second ever allowed by Hernandez in Safeco Field (the other one was from 2012 by Alberto Callaspo, thanks Katie Sharp!) so yeah, we were in for a rarity tonight. That was Tex’s 15th of the year in 52 games. That’s well on the way to 40+ homer territory for season. I am excited, aren’t you?
Leftovers (aka good bullpen tonight, man)
Justin Wilson came into the game to relieve Michael Pineda with runners on first and second with no out. The lefty overpowered Mike Zunino for a swinging strikeout and induced a 5-3 double play to end the inning. Nifty!
Dellin Betances came in for the eighth inning and, well, it was the same ol’ story. He got both Logan Morrison and Robinson Cano to strikeout swinging. It also seemed like Nelson Cruz struck out a breaking ball way outside but the ball went all the way to the backstop and the outfielder made it to first base. The next hitter, Kyle Seager, grounded out sharply to Teixeira to end the inning. Betances now has 12 punchouts in the past 4.1 innings pitched. That’s absurd. Pineda + Betances in a same game is like, a high-strikeout, low-walk pitching display heaven. Baseball is pretty fun when you have these two guys in a same team.
Chasen Shreve came in the bottom of ninth and closed things out. I noticed that he bumped his fastball velocity up to 93 mph tonight – maybe he’s more comfortable with how he has pitched. Last time out, Shreve struck out four in 1.1 IP of relief against the Athletics. Tonight, he didn’t strike anyone out (in fact, he gave up some loud flyouts) but he got the job done to shut the door.
Box Score, WPA, Standings
Tomorrow, another big guy (CC Sabathia) takes the hill in Safeco Field against Mike Montgomery – a former first rounder making his MLB debut. Can we have a winning streak going on? I miss those nice things.