Tasked with a tough matchup against Dallas Keuchel, Joe Girardi turned to Michael Pineda for the start on Monday night. Seven pitches into the game, the outlook was bleak already. Keuchel had retired the side in order and Pineda allowed a leadoff homer to George Springer on his very first offering. It seemed like a long night was ahead.
Instead, Pineda bore down and spun a gem. After scoring on the first pitch, the Astros did not dent home plate for the rest of the game. Pineda threw seven innings, allowing just four hits and two walks beyond the Springer dinger while striking out eight batters. There were a couple wild pitches mixed in the second inning, but otherwise, it was the kind of superb outing that should occur more often for a pitcher as talented as Pineda. His slider was in excellent form; the Astros really didn’t have an answer.
Meanwhile, the Yankees managed to scratch out just enough runs to beat their nemesis from the Wild Card game last year. Despite his early 2016 struggles, Keuchel has been a thorn in the Yankees’ side, yet another southpaw to baffle their bats. He faced the minimum through four with only one batter reaching base, Austin Romine. He was erased on a double play ball right after getting a single.
With two outs in the fifth though, Didi Gregorius set the table for a run by cracking double to deep center field. A nice stop by Carlos Gomez prevented it from rolling to Tal’s Hill for a triple. It didn’t end up mattering though, as Chase Headley followed with a single to score Gregorius with the tying run. In doing so, Headley also achieved a minor factoid, becoming the all-time leader in hits by a player born in Colorado. Hooray history?
Keuchel remained tricky as the game continued. He threw a perfect sixth and stranded Carlos Beltran at second after a leadoff double in the seventh. A.J. Hinch asked for one more inning out of Keuchel. That turned out to be a mistake. Headley grounded a single through the right side to begin the eighth, and Romine lined an RBI double to deep center, easily scoring Headley with the go-ahead run.
With the lead in hand and the seventh having been capably covered by Pineda, Girardi went to the old 2015 formula. Dellin Betances struck out the side in the eighth, albeit with an assist on some controversial strikes to Jose Altuve. Andrew Miller entered to close it out. Luis Valbuena made weak contact but single to left to start the ninth. Rookie Alex Bregman, making his MLB debut, was rendered foolish on some nasty sliders. A possible ground ball force-out at second was missed when Starlin Castro’s foot came off the bag, but Miller picked him up by retiring Gomez on a 6-4-3 double play.
No Aroldis, no problem.
The Yankees are now a season-high (woo?) three games over .500. They will try to push it to four tomorrow night when CC Sabathia faces Doug Fister at 8:10pm.