Monday, April 10, 2017

Pineda Nearly Perfect in Yankee Stadium Opening Day Blowout

On a perfect 76° afternoon in the Bronx; the highest opening day temperature in New York in 58 years, Michael Pineda led the New York Yankees to a Yankee Stadium Opening Day victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. Pineda was excellent today as he carried a perfect game through 6.2 innings this afternoon. The starter for Tampa, Alex Cobb, also pitched really well today, but was no match for the dominant Pineda on a near-perfect day in the Big Apple.

While both starters cruised through the first two frames with a combined seven strikeouts between them, the Yankees opened up the scoring in the bottom of the third. With one out, Brett Gardner struck out on a wild pitch by Cobb but reached first base as the catcher failed to retrieve the ball in time to record the put out at first. And that error immediately came back to haunt Cobb as he then served up a line drive double to right-center field by Jacoby Ellsbury that scored Gardner from first to give the Yankees a one run lead.

The Bombers went on to use the longball to widen their lead in the middle innings. In the bottom of the fourth, Aaron Judge blasted a solo shot into the seats in left to make it a 2-0 ballgame. The long homer was Judge's second in as many days, and this one may have been even more so satisfying   because he did it in front of his parents in his first Yankees home opener. And then in the bottom of the seventh, Chase Headley led off the frame with a line drive solo blast that made it into the first row of seats in right field to extend their lead out to three.

If you have followed my blogs, you probably know that I have been extremely critical of Michael Pineda over the last two seasons. And I can say today that I have been waiting for this type of pitching performance out of Pineda since they made the trade with Seattle to acquire him. He was absolutely phenomenal all game long, beginning nearly every at bat with a strike. His career-long bugaboo has been the inability to excel in two-strike counts and finish the job with strike three. Today, Pineda fanned 11 Rays in his 7.2 brilliant innings of work. After giving up a solo homerun to Logan Morrison in the top of the eighth, Pineda was taken out for Tyler Clippard and headed towards the dugout to a much-deserved thunderous standing ovation. It was just awesome.

As if the Pineda performance wasn't enough, several Rays errors and the Yankees bats blew the game wide open in the eighth to send Yankee fans home happy. Brett Gardner started the frame by reaching on a fielding error by second baseman Brad Miller, stealing second during Jacoby Ellsbury's at bat and then swiping third during Matt Holliday's at bat. Holliday doubled to drive Gardner in while simultaneously knocking Cobb out of the game. Austin Pruitt came on in relief and immediately coughed up a triple to the not-so-fleet-of-foot Chris Carter, scoring Holliday to make it 5-1. Starlin Castro got in on the scoring action by smacking his first homer of the season to centerfield, opening it up to a six run lead. Chase Headley reached with a single, advancing to second on a "hometown scoring" infield single by Judge that should have been called an error on first baseman Logan Morrison. Austin Romine then hit a comebacker to Austin Pruitt, who in turn bobbled the ball several times which allowed all three runners to be safe. The final run of the game was scored when Ronald Torreyes hit a grounder to third, scoring Headley to make it a 8-1 final score.

This was the most fun I've had watching Yankee baseball in a very long time. Let's hope they can keep this momentum going as they head into game two with Tampa Bay on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 PM/EST.

Formula works: Fall behind, and then take the lead…

After two days of taking leads, only to see the Orioles come back to win both games, the Yankees borrowed a page from the Buck Showalter Playbook on Sunday.  They let the O’s jump out to the early lead and then they were the ones who made up the difference to depart Baltimore with a win.  

CC Sabathia certainly didn’t have his best stuff but he did just enough to keep the Yankees in the game.  Even though it seemed like CC was consistently on the ropes, he went six innings, giving up six hits and three runs (two earned).  He walked four while striking out three.  It qualified as a quality start and it was.  Even though CC departed the game with the Yankees trailing 3-2, the game could have gotten away from him but he didn’t allow it.  On the other side, hits were rare against Orioles starter Wade Miley.  He only gave up one hit in five innings, but he walked a high number of batters.  Despite the seven free passes Miley issued, the Yankees couldn’t cash in.  

Ultimately, it didn’t matter for the Yankees as they pounced on the O’s bullpen.  The key hits were the triple by Ronald Torreyes in the top of the sixth, scoring two runs, against reliever Tyler Wilson; the eighth inning home run by Aaron Judge which tied the game; and Starlin Castro’s ninth inning single to center which scored pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury with the go-ahead run.  They added three more runs to pad the lead.  For closer Aroldis Chapman it was one run too many as it removed the save opportunity, but Chapman and his 100 mph fastball were still able to make mince meat out of the O’s for three quick outs.  

The best game stat was DH Matt Holliday’s 0-for-0, with five walks.  The last two Yankees with five walks in a game were Mark Teixeira (2009) and Roger Maris (1962).  The fifth walk led to the insertion of Ellsbury to pinch run, which resulted in the aforementioned go-ahead run.   

Credit:  Patrick Smith, Getty Images

The catch of Aaron Judge’s home run ball in the outfield bleachers by a Yankees fan was also a game highlight.  

The Yankees bullpen was outstanding.  With Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Chapman each working one inning, they collectively did not allow a walk, hit or run and struck out five.  It was a dominating performance that brought back memories of last year’s No Runs DMC.  Clippard is no Andrew Miller but he certainly did his part.  

It’s always nice to get a win on Getaway Day.  I am sure the Yankees’ flight to New York City was much better last night than if they had returned amidst a losing streak.  It will make for a better mood today during Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. 

Last week, the Yankees had an unusual day off in the middle of their three game series with the Rays in St Petersburg, FL, and it happens again this week. After today’s game, tomorrow is on off day and the series will resume on Wednesday.  Unless you want to hang out at the beach, there are probably more things to do in New York City on a day off than Tampa/St Petersburg. After the series ends on Thursday evening, the Yankees stay home to await the St Louis Cardinals while the Rays have to take a short hop to Boston.  Following no-play Tuesday, the Yankees won’t see a day off again until April 20th.  This does mean that we’ll soon have the announcement of the fifth starter.  As much as I would love to see Jordan Montgomery get the honor, the realist in me recognizes that Bryan Mitchell represents the most likely choice.  If not Mitchell, then Chad Green with a reliever being moved down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Either of those moves do not require any action with the 40-man roster, whereas the Yankees would have to open a spot for Montgomery.  Montgomery’s time is coming, it just won’t be April 16th.

Michael Pineda’s first start was disappointing but he’ll nonetheless get the honor of starting today for Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.  He hasn’t really done anything to deserve the honor but hopefully it will encourage the best possible performance out of him.  If the Yankees can win two of three from the Rays, they’ll be in a much better place than they were just this past Saturday when they stood with a 1-4 mark.  

Congrats to Matt Holliday as he’ll be pulling on the pinstripes in the Bronx for the first time today.  

Unlock the doors at The Stadium…the Yankees are home!  Time to go get another win!

Have a great Monday!

This Day in New York Yankees History 4/10: Dave Eiland Hits a Home Run

On this day in 1992 Dave Eiland hit a home run in his first major league at bat. Eiland came through the New York Yankees system and also allowed a home run to first batter he faces in his career when he gave up a homer to the Brewers Paul Molitor. Eiland hit the home run in the National League in his first year with the San Diego Padres after coming over from the Yankees.