Pineda brings some ‘quality’ to his start
The quality start is somewhat of a bogus statistic. It is rewarded to a starting pitcher who allows three or fewer runs in six innings. Since three runs allowed in six innings converts to an earned run average of 4.50, the quality start can be a pretty hollow stat.
However, a 4.50 ERA looks pretty good these days to Michael Pineda, whose ERA stands at 6.34 after what qualified Sunday as a quality start for him as the Yankees won their fifth straight game and completed their first four-game sweep at Oakland since 1979.
That Pineda had one of those six innings-three runs quality starts was just fine with the Yankees, who have been waiting for him to come close to one and falling in line with the rest of the rotation in creating this winning streak. The more important stat for Pineda was the “W,” a winning decision that ended a winless stretch of eight starts since his only other victory April 6. On that day, the righthander allowed six earned runs in five innings (10.80 ERA) and benefit from his teammates scoring a season-high 16 runs.
Pineda showed progress to some degree in pitching from the stretch and displayed improved control of his slider, which has been wayward to say the least. The most quality of his innings was the sixth because in retiring the side in order Pineda held onto a 4-3 lead and set up the rest of the game for Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to finish off the Athletics.
Carlos Beltran helped the situation further with a two-out, RBI double in the seventh for a 5-3 Yankees advantage. Betances had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 seventh, but Miller had to work to avoid having the A’s tie the score in the eighth after consecutive errors by shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Starlin Castro gave Oakland runners on the corner with none out. Miller got a huge strikeout of Danny Valencia before pinch hitter Billy Butler drove in a run with a groundout to third. Another grounder to third by pinch hitter Khris Davis ended the threat before Chapman worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
This was the fifth time all three power relievers appeared in the same game. They have combined for a 1-0 record with five saves, a 1.17 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings in those games. Overall, the Yankees’ bullpen over the past 20 games is 4-1 with seven saves and a 2.10 ERA in 60 innings.
Yet it has been starting pitching that has done the most to shape the winning streak. Starters were 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA this turn through the rotation and allowed 19 hits and four walks with 26 strikeouts in 31 innings.
After winning the first three games of the Oakland series with only one home run (by Beltran), the Yankees got solo shots from Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury off A’s starter Jesse Hahn. After the A’s regained the lead in the fifth on a two-out, RBI double by Stephen Vogt, the Yankees got a pair of two-out hits of their own to move ahead for good.
Mark Teixeira greeted reliever John Axford with an infield single to end a 0-for-19 stretch and get his first run batted in since May 1 covering 71 plate appearances. The legs of Brett Gardner got that RBI for Tex by scampering home from second base on the grounder that was knocked down by A’s second baseman Chris Coghlan in shallow center field. Castro got the Yankees back in front with a single to left-center.
Beltran finished off an incredible series that brought the Yankees’ season record within one game of .500 (21-22) in which he had nine hits in 17 at-bats (.529) with eight RBI. His fifth double of the set was career No. 515, which tied Hall of Famer Joe Cronin for 50th place on the all-time list. With Alex Rodriguez due to come off the 15-day disabled list when the Yankees open a brief homestand Tuesday night, Beltran will have to surrender his designated hitter duties.
The Yankees are 13-6 since A-Rod went on the DL. Beltran’s productivity has been a major factor in that record. In 12 games as the DH, Beltran hit .367 with nine runs, nine doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 49 at-bats. The Yankees were 10-2 in those games. Rodriguez has big shoes to fill.