Yankees Postgame Notebook: Pineda almost perfect in Yankees' rout of Rays
NEW YORK - Monday morning, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was specifically asked whether or not Michael Pineda could rise to the occasion of pitching the home opener. His answer was basically "I hope so," but after Pineda was perfect through 6 2/3 innings and lasted 7 2/3 innings total in the Yankees' 8-1 win over the Rays, his thoughts were much more concrete.
"I was thinking it was going to be another special day here at the Stadium. And obviously he pitched really well today," Girardi said. "It has to be extremely satisfying for him, because he didn't pitch well his first start against the Rays."
Big Mike indeed went just 3 2/3 innings against the Rays last Wednesday, but this time, Pineda was perfect into the seventh inning, retiring the first 20 batters he faced - 10 via strikeout - before Evan Longoria's two-out double ended the dream.
"After the fourth, I looked at the scoreboard and saw what was happening, but I wasn't thinking about it. I was just thinking about having a good outing and giving my team the opportunity to win," Pineda said. "I was focusing on getting quick outs, so I was just going hitter by hitter and inning by inning."
"His stuff was really good, and I thought he had a shot (at a no-hitter)," Girardi added.
Pineda "recovered" with his 11th and final strikeout, fanning Brad Miller to end the frame, and then got two outs in the seventh around Logan Morrison's solo home run, which was only called as such after a 69-second review. A 5-3 groundout and a nice play by Chase Headley ended Big Mike's day right after that, giving him a line of one run on two hits, with 11 K's, in 7 2/3 innings, and 67 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
"I think Michael and (Austin Romine) executed a really great game plan," Girardi said. "I think Michael mixed his pitches - he threw a lot more changeups today - and had better command, and I thought his slider was more consistent today."
Added Pineda: "I think my location was good today, and I was executing all my pitches, especially my changeup; I felt good with it in the bullpen and could see the action it had, so I said to myself that it was going to be the good pitch today and I went out and threw it more."
Offensively, Brett Gardner had another strong day, scoring the Yankees first run after reaching base on a strikeout/wild pitch and scampering home on Jacoby Ellsbury's double, and he led off the Yankees' monster eighth by reaching on an error, stealing two bases, and scoring on Matt Holliday's double.
"I'm extremely pleased. I talked to him this spring, and basically, I told him that I don't care how he gets to each base, but his job is to score 100 runs," Girardi said. "He's run a lot, he's swung the bat extremely well, and he's played defense extremely well, so he's off to a great start."
Aaron Judge and Chase Headley added solo home runs which made it 2-0 and 3-1 at the time, and in the eighth, the Yankees added five more, sending 10 men to the plate in an inning that saw two Tampa Bay commit two errors, Ronald Torreyes beat out a 5-5-3 double play attempt for his team-leading eighth RBI of the season, Chris Carter's fifth career triple, and Starlin Castro's two-run homer to right that was reviewed and upheld after a delay of nearly two minutes.
"We're missing a big bat in Sanchez, but I think we have the ability to have innings like that," Girardi said. "We're more athletic, so I think you can expect a little bit more aggressiveness."
All in all, it adds up to Girardi's 900th win, and gives the Yankees their first winning streak of the season.
A few more notes and quotes from home Opening Day in the Bronx:
- The Yankees announced that Gary Sanchez is expected to miss about a month with a Grade 1 strain of his right brachialis muscle, which is a timeline Girardi said he expected. The skipper on Sanchez's absence: "It's a big bat in your lineup that you're going to miss, but it gives the other two a chance to step up. I think Romine's done a good job the last couple days, and (Kyle Higashioka) will get his chances too, but it's a big bat, no doubt about it."
- Girardi also announced that Jordan Montgomery has won the fifth starter competition, and he will actually make his major-league debut on Wednesday: "He's got a four pitch mix and a very good downhill angle, and he has different ways he can get you out. We thought the other guys may have had a leg up, but he was on our radar, and the way he pitched this spring earned him the opportunity."
- Luis Severino, Wednesday's scheduled starter, will move back a day to Thursday, and Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia will both also move back to Friday and Saturday, respectively. That will mean six days rest for each of them, "Tanaka worked really hard in that last inning Friday, and I actually told Larry after that game that it might be a good idea to give him an extra day. CC got bumped around too, so I actually called Cash that night. Montgomery is on turn for tomorrow, actually, so we decided to do it."
- In roster notes, Chasen Shreve was optioned to Triple-A following the game to make room for the eventual Montgomery addition, and the Yankees will announce a 40-man move at a later time. Monty will only be the second Yankee to make his MLB debut this season, though, as Higashioka made his by coming in to catch the ninth today - and, in the process, the 2008 seventh-round pick tied infielder George Zeber, who was drafted in 1968 and debuted in 1977, for the for the franchise's longest gap from draft to debut by a player both drafted by and debuting with the Yankees.
- Last word we'll give to Pineda, on the energy he felt from the fans from the first pitch to his last on home Opening Day: "Today was a big game and the fans were excited, so I was happy to have that energy. I could see they were getting excited as the game went on, and I felt good walking off the mound, because I pitched well and they were happy. It was a good moment for me."