Girardi spared another tough decision on Pineda
Christian Yelich did Joe Girardi a big favor Wednesday night. Michael Pineda entered the seventh inning with a no-hitter in place against the Marlins but a pitch count that had reached 94.
Considering how cautious the Yankees have been with Pineda, who had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and has not pitched more than 171 innings in professional baseball, Girardi likely would have been forced to make a difficult decision if his pitcher got too far beyond the 100-pitch limit. The manager recalled a game at the Stadium May 10 against the Orioles when he took Pineda out after seven innings when the pitcher had 16 strikeouts, two shy of Ron Guidry’s franchise record.
Yelich led off the seventh by driving Pineda’s first pitch into the Yankees’ bullpen for his fourth home run of the season. End of no-hitter. End of shutout. End of concern for Girardi about his pitcher, who retired the next two batters before coming out of the game to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 43,048.
“I was in a bad spot,” Girardi conceded. “People questioned me when he had 16 strikeouts with 111 pitches. At some point I would have had to consider pulling him. You can’t let him go forever. It is not a decision you want to make, but it is one you have to make.”
Returning to his normal routine, Pineda was back to his usual self. The slider that was missing from his previous start was back with its hard bite, good enough to help produce nine strikeouts. The only two base runners prior to Yelich’s dinger were on walks, the first coming after Pineda had retired the first 11 batters in order.
Pineda’s previous start June 12 at Baltimore was on 10 days’ rest after the Yankees skipped him one turn in the rotation in an effort to conserve innings. The righthander never got into synch and was roughed up for six runs (five earned) and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.
He was a pitcher much more in command Wednesday night. The Yankees gave him a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out, RBI single by Alex Rodriguez. Carlos Beltran singled home a run in the fifth, but A-Rod was thrown out at the plate trying to get his team another run. With two singles, Rodriguez pushed his career hits total to 2,997.
As impressive as Pineda was, he was nearly stuck with a no-decision when for a couple of minutes in the eighth inning it appeared that Miami had tied the score. With runners on first and third and one out, Dee Gordon hit a chopper to first baseman Garrett Jones, whose throw to the plate was a bit high and up the line. Adeiny Hechevarria was originally ruled safe by plate umpire Dale Scott.
The Yankees called for a review. Replays indicated that catcher Brian McCann tagged Hechevarria on his left knee before his left foot hit the plate. The call was over-turned, so the score reverted to 2-1 Yankees, which held up as Dellin Betances converted a five-out save.
Pineda’s record this year improved to 8-3 with a 3.54 ERA as he continued his dominance against National League competition — 5-1 with a 1.18 ERA in 53 1/3 innings.