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Ranking Michael Pineda’s best starts for the Yankees

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The Era of Big Mike is likely over. Let’s remember his finer moments.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

News broke on Friday revealing Michael Pineda suffered a partial tear of his UCL. Doctors recommend Tommy John surgery, but the right-hander will seek a second opinion in hopes of rehabbing the injury. Either way, his season — and likely his career in pinstripes — is over. A substantial injury in his walk year figures to line him up for a Nathan Eovaldi type contract, and I can’t imagine it will come from the Yankees.

Pineda’s been a polarizing figure in New York, but I always had a soft spot for Big Mike. He’s played a significant role in recent Yankees’ history. That said, it makes sense to look back on his best moments in pinstripes. To do that, I’ll rank his top five starts according to game score. Here’s a primer on how game score works. It’s a straightforward measurement. Now, what does it say about Pineda’s stint in New York?

5. July 4th, 2015 versus Tampa Bay (box score) (PSA recap) (video)
Pitching Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, 97 pitches Game Score: 76

It’s fair to say that the first half of 2015 saw Pineda’s peak. This Independence Day game against the Rays serves as a fine example. The right-hander struck out 10 while pitching seven shutout innings. Pineda only allowed two baserunners after the second inning. He was automatic. Fun fact: This was also the team’s second walk-off victory in as many days. That’s pretty cool! At this point, I’d take any two consecutive wins with the 2017 Yankees.

4. May 5th, 2015 at Toronto (box score) (PSA recap) (video)
Pitching Line: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, 101 pitches Game Score: 77

A similarity between the first-half 2015 Yankees and the current team is that both clubs had suspect bullpens. Pineda pitched innings of shutout ball against the Blue Jays, and the Bombers won by a score of 6 - 3. That’s quite the disconnect. Nevertheless, Big Mike lived up to his moniker. He overpowered the Blue Jays. His first inning strikeout of Edwin Encarnacion is a thing of beauty.

3. May 10th, 2015 versus Baltimore (box score) (PSA recap) (video)
Pitching Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 16 K, 111 pitches Game Score: 77

You knew this game would make the list. The Mother’s Day masterpiece is Pineda’s signature moment. I’m somewhat surprised it only made third. After allowing a solo home run to J.J. Hardy in the second inning, Pineda decided to strikeout every batter on the planet, or something like that. He tied David Cone for most strikeouts by a right-hander in franchise history. Pineda struggled mightily after this game, but it was his shining moment in New York.

2. April 10th, 2017 versus Tampa Bay (Box Score) (PSA recap) (video)
Pitching Line: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, O BB, 11 K, 93 pitches Game Score: 82

Confession time: I really thought Pineda had a chance at a perfect game here. He had everything working. The fastball was sharp, and Austin Romine called for a healthy diet of sliders and changeups. Although Pineda surrendered a solo home run to Logan Morrison in the eighth, the real heartbreak came an inning earlier when Evan Longoria broke up the perfect game attempt. Nevertheless, Big Mike racked up 11 strikeouts. The rest of his season was downhill from here, but this was an impressive start.

1. September 22nd, 2014 versus Baltimore (Box Score) (PSA recap) (video)
Pitching Line: 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 106 pitches Game Score: 83

Between the pine tar suspension and an abdominal injury, Pineda didn’t pitch much in 2014. When he did, though, he looked like an ace. With the Yankees on the brink of elimination, Big Mike took the mound and shut a potent Baltimore lineup down. The only hit he allowed came in the fifth inning, with the lone walk drawn in the eight. Not a whole lot went right for the Yankees in 2014. A healthy Pineda did, though.

It’s fair to lament the Pineda years. All told, he pitched to a 102 ERA+ and missed significant time with injuries. That’s not exactly the production one imagined when the Yankees traded Jesus Montero way back in 2012. Nonetheless, he had his high moments. He flashed brilliance and claimed a franchise record. I’m not sure I’ll miss Pineda, but I’ll appreciate his contributions. Get well soon, Big Mike.