The Yankees' season-opening tour of the AL East made its way outside New York for the first time last night, as the Yanks traveled to Baltimore to start a 3-game series with the rival Orioles. They had Big Mike on the hill, a lineup feeling better about itself after the big offensive breakout on Sunday night, and a bullpen that should have been back to normal after a long few days last week.
Michael Pineda got off to a bit of a rough start,surrendering 2 runs in the bottom of the 2nd on an Adam Jones leadoff single, Manny Machado double past a diving A-Rod down the third base line, and a Jonathan Schoop ribbie double to left that stood up on challenge replay. He was missing with his fastball in spots and you could tell there was something a bit off with his stuff. Then he struck out the 8-9 hitters to end the threat and you could start to see him pull it together.
Pineda faced the minimum through the next 3 innings, the only smudge against him a base hit that was eliminated by Brett Gardner's arm from left. He started to locate his fastball, he was throwing his slider wherever he wanted in and out of the zone, and he was mixing in changeups against lefties and making them (looking at you, Chris Davis) look silly. This allowed the Yanks to stay in the game despite getting 2 solo home runs from Chris Young (2nd inning) and Mark Teixeira (4th) and not much else against Wei-Yin Chen through 5.
Alejandro De Aza doubled to lead off the bottom of the 6th, but Pineda looked like he was going to work around trouble after getting Steve Pearce to ground out and fanning Davis again. Jones came up, and for some reason Pineda and Murphy decided to throw him a 1-2 cutter. Pineda missed badly with it and Jones hammered it for a go-ahead 2-run bomb. A bad final mark to leave on what was becoming a great night for Pineda.
But the Yankee offense wasn't done. Chen left after 6 and they jumped all over reliever Tommy Hunter in the 7th. A Chris Young single and a John Ryn Murphy walk put the tying run on base, and a 2-out single by Jacoby Ellsbury loaded the bases for Gardner. Or rather pinch hitter Stephen Drew. Gardner took a pitch off the wrist in the 1st inning, and it must have stiffened up enough on him to cause Joe to pull him at that point. With Brian McCann and Chase Headley on the bench, Joe elected to go with Drew and Drew rewarded the faith with a pinch hit grand slam to put the Yankees ahead 6-4. As if there was any doubt...
The bullpen still needed to preserve the lead though, and Dellin Betances made a mess of Pineda's inherited runners situation in the 7th, giving one of the 2-run lead back. He almost made another mess in the 8th, and Joe went to Andrew Miller for the 5-out save. He calmly ended the 8th with a pair of strikeouts and worked around a 2-out HBP to get the job done. Ballgame over, Yankees win. 2 in a row.
- 17 swinging strikes out of 68 thrown (25%), and 9 Ks to 0 BB. Those are the numbers that mean more to me than the 9 H and 5 ER Pineda had charged against him last night. He looked really good and he threw 98 pitches. The arm strength is back.
- Another 2 times on base for Ellsbury last night thanks to his 2 singles. He hasn't hit for any power yet, but he's got a .387 OBP and seems to be taking more pitches and working more counts than I remember last year.
- Solid 2-4 night for Young too. He's off to quite the start for a guy who didn't look very good for most of the spring. As long as he's going to swing like this, I'd consider him playing more than Beltran right now.
- Betances has absolutely no clue where his fastball is going right now. None. he threw 10 strikes out of 24 pitches and he's already walked 6 this year in 3.1 IP. Roth needs to get to work ironing out those mechanics with him because it's ugly to watch.
- Nice all-around night for Murphy. He singled, walked, scored a run, has some good chemistry going with Pineda in that late 2nd-5th inning stretch, and he gunned down 2 attempted base stealers. I think the Yanks kept the right guy for the backup job.
- Gardner went for X-rays after being pulled and they came back negative. Joe's calling him day-to-day and I wouldn't be surprised if he got the night off tonight. Joe's been really careful with his rest and deliberate with his platooning, perhaps too much in both cases. But you don't want to mess with wrists. If it's still stiff tonight, let Young play.