The people of New York have certainly heard a lot about Michael Pineda over the past 27 months. Since being acquired by the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners in 2012, the Yankee fans haven't gotten a chance to see him pitch in his home ballpark.
The night after Masahiro Tanaka made his Bronx debut, Pineda did the same, striking out seven Boston Red Sox in six-plus innings of one-run ball, as the Yankees would defeat the Sox, 4-1, in the first matchup of a four-game weekend series Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
Brian McCann snapped a long hitless streak, Dean Anna hit his first major league homerun, and Jacoby Ellsbury also contributed to the winning effort by driving in a run in the 5th inning to help the Yankees beat his former ballclub.
The only run that Pineda gave up was a solo homerun by Daniel Nava to open the 7th inning, and it was crushed, landing in the upper-deck of the seats in right field. Xander Bogaerts followed up with a single off Pineda, and that’s when Joe Girardi decided to go to the bullpen.
Pineda started the game with a 1-2-3 first inning, sitting mostly in the 93-95 mph range, and even topping out at 96 mph a couple of times. He would stay in that range with his fast ball most of the night, a good sign early in his return that the velocity might slowly be coming back.
He proceeded to set down the Boston hitters with out much trouble over the next three innings, issuing just the two walks through the first four inning — the first to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the 3rd, and the second to Mike Napoli in the 4th.
Pineda actually took a no-hitter into the 5th inning, where he would give up a lead-off single to Bogaerts. The only other hit given up before the Nava homerun was a long double that one-hopped the wall in right-center field by David Ortiz.
Looking like he might be able to save the tired Yankees bullpen, Pineda cruised into the 7th, where he gave up the Nava blast and Bogaerts single, ending his night. He left with the announced crowd of 42, 821 giving him a loud standing ovation.
His fastball looked pretty good in the early innings, and he was throwing strikes, with 63 of his 94 pitches going for strikes. I thought his slider, which is his go-to out-pitch, was good, and will continue to be very good as the year goes on.
McCann put the Yankees on the board in the 4th inning with an RBI single down the right field ling, breaking an 0-for-14 streak at the plate. Ellsbury reached on an error to open the inning, then Carlos Beltran picked up where he left off last night by singling into right field, putting runners on 1st and 2nd. McCann was the next batter and he ripped a Clay Buchholtz pitch into right field.
The single moved Belran over to 3rd base with nobody out, then Alfonso Soriano made it a 2-0 game by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, bringing home Beltran.
An inning later, Anna extended the lead to 3-0 when he hit a solo homerun to right field, the first long ball of his major league career. Ellsbury added on one more run for the Yankees later in the inning, singling to left field, scoring Derek Jeter from 2nd base to make it a 4-0 game. The throw from left was originally coming home, but was cut-off and fired over to 2nd base to nail Ellsbury, who was trying to stretch his single into a double.
The Yankees' bullpen was a little short-handed tonight, with both Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren unavailable to pitch, Pineda, combined with Cesar Cabral and David Phelps did a very good job. Cabral took over for Pineda and struck out both batters he faced, then Phelps came in picked up his first save by tossing 2.1 innings of very effect relief.
This series continues tomorrow with the second game. CC Sabathia takes the mound for the Yankees in his thrid start of the season, going up against Jon Lester for the Red Sox at 7:05 pm ET.