Michael Pineda, the former blue-chip prospect who still gives the occasional flash of brilliance, almost gave the Yankees a home opener for the ages today. What he gave them instead was still pretty damn good, though.
Pineda didn’t allow a baserunner through the first 6.2 innings, but had his bid at perfection ruined by an Evan Longoria double. He gave up a solo homer that just cleared the fence in the eighth, and left the game with this sparkling line: 7.2 innings, two hits, one earned run, 11 strikeouts.
Pineda leaned on his slider and four-seamer, throwing 36 of the former and 34 of the latter. Rays batters whiffed 10 times against Pineda’s slider, and watched another five cross the plate for called strikes. He was pumping his fastball across the plate in the high 90s all day, and commanded the pitch brilliantly, getting nine called strikes and four swinging strikes from it. The two pitches made for a potent combo, and a fantastic outing for the Yankees’ typically inconsistent starter.
This plot (via Brooks Baseball), showing the results of each of Pineda’s pitches, should let you know just how hard his slider was biting today. Look at all those swinging strikes at the bottom of the zone:
Pineda trends toward ups and downs, offering stretches of dominance that strung together could make the Yankees a real threat. But in his three seasons with the Yankees he’s been frustrating, but today he set the bar high for his potential on the mound.
It was a good show for the (long-suffering) fans in the Bronx, who have plenty to look forward to, but probably shouldn’t expect Pineda to look that sharp all season. But a nice, sunny afternoon eating expensive hot dogs and watching your team dominate a division rival? That’s about as good as it gets.