Pineda weathers cold minus pine tar
Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium was one of those early-season games when a pitcher could really use some pine tar to help him grip the ball. Except that to do so is illegal, which the Yankees’ Michael Pineda discovered infamously last year.
The righthander drew a suspension for using the substance that was smeared on his neck during an April 2014 game at Fenway Park, which got him tossed from the game. Pineda learned his lesson and weathered the 42-degree climate against the Blue Jays without anything beyond the talent contained in his right arm. His 96-pitch effort over six innings was a solid first start, but the Yankees did not get him any run support until his last inning.
Pineda gave up two runs, six hits and a walk with six strikeouts against a Toronto lineup that can be dangerous. Half of his K’s came against slugger Jose Bautista, including in the third inning when the Jays threatened to break the game open.
Toronto used two infield singles and a double to get its first run and had runners on first and second with none out when Pineda retired Jose Reyes on a fly ball to right and struck out Russell Martin and Bautista. Another infield hit played a factor in the Blue Jays’ second run that came home on a sacrifice fly by Martin in the fifth.
Meanwhile, the Yankees struggled against R.A. Dickey. Just what the Yankees did not need after a one-run, three-hit performance in the opener was to have to face a knuckleballer. It is hard to break out of a slump against that pitch.
Switch hitter Mark Teixeira chose to bat right-handed against the right-handed Dickey. It worked Tex’s first time up as he lashed a double to left field, but the Yankees could not get him past third base.
Jacoby Ellsbury was the main cog in manufacturing a run in the sixth. He led off with a single and promptly stole second base. A grounder to first by Brett Gardner advanced Ellsbury to third from where he scored on a lineout to center field by Carlos Beltran.
Yankees fans got their first 2015 look at Dellin Betances, who worked the eighth inning after Chris Martin pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Martin has retired all six batters he has faced in the Yankees’ first two games.
Betances was not especially sharp. He gave up a single and two walks, but he should have gotten through the eighth unscathed except that an errant pickoff attempt by catcher Brian McCann to first base went down the right field line allowing a run to score for a 3-1 Toronto lead and putting runners on second and third with one out. Betances avoided further damage by getting the next two hitters on grounders to the mound.