Michael Pineda’s best start of the season allowed him to keep his spot in the rotation

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Michael Pineda – ESPN

The Yankees were able to end their three-game losing streak with their 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in Detroit on Thursday night. They previously lost three consecutive games in Toronto where they scored a total of only three runs.

Michael Pineda got the start during this makeup game from the beginning of the season and he definitely pitched well enough to stay in the rotation. General Manager Brian Cashman talked before the game about demoting him from the rotation if had another subpar start. Going into last night’s game, Pineda’s 6.92 ERA was the worst ERA of any pitcher who had thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

However, in this game, he pitched like he is capable of as he allowed one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched. He recorded an impressive eight strikeouts, allowed seven hits and didn’t walk a single Tiger. He has been limiting the walks and piling up the strikeouts most of the season, but he has struggled mightily in the first inning and with the long ball and with allowing minor issues to turn into multiple runs.

This game was different for Pineda compared to what had happened to him in many previous starts. He struck out Cameron Maybin to begin the game, but then allowed back-to-back hits to J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. However, this time he didn’t allow those runners to score since he was able to get Victor Martinez to hit into a double play to end the frame. Proving how much the opening frame has been a problem for Pineda is that 36 percent of the runs that he has allowed this season have come in the first inning (15 of the 42 earned runs).

He allowed more hits (7) than innings pitched but he managed to limit the damage to only one earned run. His slider was a strength tonight – generating 13 whiffs with the slider tonight, good for a 40.6% rate. When his slider is on it is a sign that Pineda is pitching well. What is so frustrating about Pineda is that last season on Mother’s Day he had 16 strikeouts and allowed only one run to the Orioles and this season he has now allowed two runs or less in a start five times, which proves his potential.

However, what has led to his ERA being 6.41 in the beginning of June is that he has given up five runs or more five times (with one start where he allowed three runs). Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild hope and need him to be more consistent than he has shown because he has been by far the worst pitcher in the rotation.

Last season he ended the campaign with a 4.37 ERA but he was able to truly show what he is capable of in the 2014 season. He missed about a month and a half due to injury but was able to have an outstanding 1.89 ERA in 13 starts. He had 59 strikeouts and seven walks, which is a very good strikeout to walk ratio, and he allowed two runs or less in 12 of his 13 starts.

He has the ability to be a No. 2 type starter. Thursday’s start could be the one that leads to him having sustained effectiveness similar to what he showed in 2013, which was his first healthy season as a Yankee after being traded to the team before the 2012 season. They will need Pineda to pitch well to have a chance of getting back in the race in the AL East.

It appeared that the Yankees would win easily as they had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Yankees exploded for four runs in the seventh on a Rob Refsnyder RBI single that scored Chase Headley, an RBI single by Aaron Hicks that scored Austin Romine and a triple to deep right by leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury that scored Refsnyder and Hicks.

However, in this game, the trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, which has been extremely reliable when all pitching in the same game, was not during the seventh through ninth innings. But they were able to luckily limit the damage to three total runs, which led to the Yankees escaping Detroit with a win.

Betances struck out three in his 1.1 innings but he allowed an RBI double to make the score 5-2. Miller, who still has a very low 1.25 ERA, walked two batter in the eighth and gave up an RBI double. Chapman was really able to get out of trouble in the ninth since he loaded the bases with no outs and then got J.D. Martinez to hit into a double play, which scored the Tigers fourth and final run.

Refsnyder, who has gone back and forth from Triple-A Scranton this season, should stay with the Yankees. They would not have won the game without him since he scored the team’s first run in addition to scoring and driving in a run in the seventh. He is now hitting .400 in 10 at-bats this season and is valuable off of the bench because he produces offensively and can play second, third and outfield.

The Yankees, who are now 25-28 and 6.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox (32-22) for first place in the AL East, will begin a three-game series in Baltimore against the second place Orioles (30-22) on Friday night. It will be important that the team continues to get the offensive production that they did on Thursday during the series in Baltimore.

 

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