Yankees in weird position of counting on Michael Pineda

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Yankees in weird position of counting on Michael Pineda

Příspěvekod pinkpink » 23 kvě 2017 08:08

I know no one who has followed his Yankee career is going to buy stock in that continuing, but where exactly would the team be without his 2017 reliability? Almost certainly not in first place.
Pineda has not pitched like an ace, but he has performed like a strong No. 2, an asset made more valuable because the Yankees’ No. 1 starter, Masahiro Tanaka, continues a search for vanished excellence.
Elsewhere, the Yanks have gotten the kind of erratic work you might expect from the youngest regular starting pitcher in the AL (Luis Severino) and the oldest (CC Sabathia) plus a guy who was not even on the radar to make the team when Bill Mazeroski Jersey spring training began (Jordan Montgomery).
That has left a larger weight on Pineda, whose first start of this season — a 3 2/?-inning, four-run dud in Tampa — triggered a lot of “here-we-go-again” hand-wringing. Except since then, Pineda has started eight times and not given up more than three earned runs once. He is 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA in that time.
Included in this was beating the Royals for a second time in five days by holding them to two runs in 6 1/? innings Monday in a 4-2 Yankee triumph. It was not a masterpiece, not something he would show off prominently as an example of his best when he is a free agent this offseason.
Yet, if you want to believe this isn’t “here-we-go-again” Pineda, but a more mature, refined edition, there were continuing clues here. For there were some blow-up moments available, the kind that the righty failed to tame last season, leading to 6-12 and a 4.82 ERA and wonder if great stuff would ever coalesce into a full season of even good results.
Pineda went six up, six down to open his outing before Jorge Bonifacio crushed a homer leading off the third. With one out, Whit Merrifield slammed an infield single off Pineda’s body and Alcides Escobar followed with an RBI double. It was 2-0 Kansas City with the kind of snowball rolling downhill that Pineda could not stop in 2016, that led to an avalanche of big innings and bigger disappointment.
But here he held the Royals at two runs in the third, the Yanks closed to 2-1 on yet another Brett Gardner homer before Eric Hosmer opened the fourth with a double.
The key at-bat of the game had arrived. Salvador Perez fouled off eight straight pitches after getting ahead 2-0. The 11th pitch moved the count full. At this point, the Royal catcher had seen the whole arsenal — six sliders, three fastballs and two Adidas Brad Marchand Jersey changeups, and throughout the whole encounter Pineda had a recurring thought: “down, down” — do not elevate a ball to the Royals’ leading home-run hitter.
One more slider on Pitch 12 of the at-bat induced a pop-up to first. Pineda would follow with whiffs of Brandon Moss and Bonifacio, both of those and, in fact all six of his strikeouts, finished off with that devilish slider. The Royals were hitless in three at-bats with a runner in scoring position in that inning, 0-for-8 against Pineda on this night.
“The ability to get big outs when he needs them,” Joe Girardi said in explaining Pineda 2016 vs. 2017. “The difference between winning and losing is getting big outs when you need them.”
Pineda allowed 15 extra-base hits, including nine homers, while yielding an .829 OPS last year when runners were in scoring position. He has permitted one extra-base hit (a homer) in 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position this year and has a .391 OPS against.
“I am just calming myself down and executing my pitches,” Pineda explained.
Is that a real thing? Is this just a small sample size? Or is this a better version of Pineda — strategy, serenity and fortitude now mixing with his A-list stuff?
The importance is hard to overstate. The Yankee offense and bullpen are both deep and performing superbly. The rotation just needs to be competent — steady innings to not overexpose relievers, solid work to always keep the homer-happy offense one swing away from altering a game. The Yanks hit three more homers Monday and Girardi said they “just missed” an additional four or five by a fraction of an inch on the bat. They got 2 2/? more shutout innings from an Aroldis Chapman-less pen.
They are going to need organization-wide detective work to find answers as to why Tanaka has plumetted — and him to then straighten out his season. But they also are going to need Pineda to keep on doing what he has been doing:
Being — of all things — the consistently capable Yankee starter.
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