2 big guys, 1 big game. Michael Pineda was the better man on this night, thoroughly outdueling James Shields and leading the Yankees to their 5th straight victory on their way out to a big 3-game Wild Card competition showdown.
Shields shot himself in the foot in the 3rd inning, throwing an Ichiro Suzuki grounder back to the mound away and putting him at second with nobody out. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s speed was responsible for scoring the run, as he stayed out of 2 straight GIDPs to allow Ichiro to come around and score the game’s first run on a Derek Jeter RBI groundout. Another Shields mistake, this one a belt-high fastball on a 3-2 pitch, led to the second Yankee run when Stephen Drew hit it for his second Yankee home run in the 4th.
Big Mike looked really, really good to me in the first 2 innings. His fastball was snapping McCann’s glove, his slider was biting, and the Royal hitters weren’t putting a lot of good swings on anything he threw. He left a 1-1 cutter up to Mike Moustakas to start the bottom of the 3rd that Moustakas smoked to right for a game-tying solo home run, but that was a minor hiccup. He retired the next 3 hitters in order and the next 10 in order into the 6th. The Royals got 4 hits off him through 6, 2 of them groundball singles, and didn’t draw a walk while striking out 5 times.
The lineup worked Shields in other innings without bringing any more runs across, then really got to him in the 7th. Martin Prado stayed 3rd-degree hot with a solo shot to lead off the top of the 7th, and a steady stream of favorably-located singles (4 in 5 batters) and a Brian McCann sac fly led to 3 more runs before the end of the inning. Joe even got credit for one with another successful challenge on a play at the plate.
A Salvador Perez double with 1 out in the 7th ended Pineda’s night. David Huff was Joe’s first man out tonight and he got the final 8 outs without much trouble to give the overworked ‘pen horses a day off. Ellsbury tagged a 2-run homer in the 9th for a pinch of extra insurance.
– Terrific outing for Pineda. HIs stuff definitely qualified for the proverbial “electric” tag. 4-seamers and cutters in the mid-90s, a lot of late movement on the cutter, and a consistent swing-and-miss slider. We didn’t see the changeup a lot, but he didn’t need it. He’s walked 1 batter in 17.1 innings since coming off the DL.
– Big night for Ellsbury, who was playing despite being described as “pretty beat up” by Joe. 3-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, and his 11th yardjob of the season.
– It was a well balanced effort from the lineup. All 9 guys had a hit, 3 guys had at least 2, and 6 reached base at least twice. 5 different guys drove in a run and 5 different guys scored a run. Everything from Prado’s double and homer to Ichiro’s dinky little singles, with a sac fly mixed in for good measure.
– That’s 3 HR in the last 8 games for Prado and 2 in the last 4 for Drew.
– Brett Gardner got a second straight day off to rest his sore ankle. He said he expects to be back in the lineup tomorrow.