Michael Pineda entered his start in Detroit tonight really needing a victory. Although Joe Girardi gave him a vote of confidence the other day, Brian Cashman seemed to indicate that his rotation spot wasn't quite so secure. Thankfully, "Big Mike" channeled the form that made fans like him so much early last year with a solid outing. Even the Yankees' beleaguered offense showed up for a chance, giving him the run support for the victory while snapping a three-game losing streak. There is truly no resource in baseball more capable of bringing a team back to life than the Tigers' bullpen.
At first however, it seemed like Pineda and the offense were just as shaky as expected in this make-up game. J.D. Martinez smoked a double to left with one out in the first, and Miguel Cabrera followed with a base hit of his own that was hit too hard to score Martinez, even with Carlos Beltran in right field. Pineda ended up turning the tables with Victor Martinez up by getting the DH to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play.
From then on, it was pretty much smooth sailing for Pineda. Detroit pushed across a run in the fourth when a weakly struck ball from Justin Upton fell in front of Beltran for an RBI single. Even a mildly below average outfielder probably could have caught that ball, but unfortunately, that is the byproduct of using Alex Rodriguez to DH. A wild pitch sent Upton to second, but to his credit, Pineda recovered to strike out Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He kept the score at 1-0 entering the sixth inning. The only problem was that the Yankee still didn't have a hit.
Matt Boyd had the starting nod for Detroit, and the Yankees could not do a single damn thing against him for four innings. He didn't put a baserunner until Chase Headley lucked out on a close 2-2 pitch that was called a ball, leading to a walk with two outs in the fifth. Rob Refsnyder sparked the offense at the outset of the sixth by breaking up the no-hitter with a double to left-center. Two batters later, a sacrifice fly from Jacoby Ellsbury tied the score. The team began to figure out Boyd as both Starlin Castro and Beltran lined base hits to prolong the innings, but not even a weary Boyd could snap Mark Teixeira out of his malaise. A strikeout preserved the tie with Pineda heading back to the mound.
Cabrera greeted Pineda with his second hit of the night, a single to right-center. Girardi stuck with him as he induced a Victor Martiinez pop-up and fanned Nick Castellanos again, but that was enough. With Dellin Betances warmed up in the bullpen and a tight game, he could not afford to have Pineda face the power-hitting Upton. It was certainly defensible, as Pineda remains a risk and Betances is one of the game's elite relievers. Sure enough, Betances got Upton to bounce to shortstop for the last out of the inning. Pineda finished the night with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing seven hits but no walks while striking out eight batters, mostly with his sharp slider. That is the Pineda the Yankees need to see going forward.
The lineup had a resurgence of their own in the top of seventh with Boyd tiring. A-Rod and Headley led off with base hits, though Austin Romine could not get a good bunt down and forced A-Rod at third base. Refsnyder came through anyway with an RBI single, which put the Yankees on top. Brad Ausmus then called on former Mets closer Bobby Parnell to relieve Boyd, but the infamous Tigers bullpen struck again. Aaron Hicks ripped his first pitch for an RBI single off the shortstop's glove.. A quick pitching change later and Kyle Ryan was in to face Ellsbury. The result was worse, as the center fielder smacked a triple to right field, plating two more runs and making it a 5-1 ballgame.
With Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman all ready to go, it seemed like Girardi had this victory gift-wrapped and ready. Then a fit of wildness overcame Betances in the seventh, as he walked Saltalamacchia on four pitches and let loose a wild pitch. Mike Aviles doubled to make it a three-run game, but with Miller getting warm just in case, Betances struck out the side. The normally reliable Miller must have caught the wild bug from Betances. He sandwiched two walks around two strikeouts in the eighth before giving up a double to pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler. It looked like two runs would score, but fresh off the bench, Didi Gregorius made a superb relay throw to nail Upton at the plate, ending the inning.
Chapman was not any sharper than his fellow two heads of the dragon. Aviles singled to start it off, moved to second on a wild pitch, and light-hitting Jose Iglesias worked a walk. Cameron Maybin dropped a bunt to move the tying run into scoring position, but the Yankees couldn't even get the easy out at first. A poor throw from Headley had the bases loaded and no one out for the heart of the Tigers order--just the way Girardi planned it, no doubt.
Miraculously, the Yankees managed to escape, thanks once again to the amazing defense of Gregorius. J.D. Martinez hit a hard ground ball that seemed destined to tie the game, but Gregorius somehow reached it. He flipped the ball to Starlin Castro for one out. The second baseman made a tough catch, then threw a missile to Tex to turn a crazy double play:
It was tremendous work from the team's up-the-middle combo, but a run scored and Chapman still had to face the future Hall of Famer Cabrera with tying run at third. Just one good swing on a Chapman fastball could have ended the game on a homer, too. Fortunately for Yankees fans' hearts, the at bat lasted just one pitch. Miggy hit a routine grounder to Castro, ending the game and allowing fans to exhale.
By the skin of their teeth, the Yankees won 5-4. Now they will fly to Baltimore to begin their regularly scheduled three-game series at Camden Yards tomorrow night. Nathan Eovaldi squares off against Chris Tillman at 7:05pm. May the Yankees resume their winning ways.