If the Yankees are to return to the postseason in 2016, they’ll need to get a lot of wins out of Michael Pineda. He gave them a first last night. They’re still hoping for better.
Pineda did not pitch well by almost any measure — OK, he didn’t issue a walk in his five innings against the Astros — but was bailed out by a prodigious effort from the lineup. He nearly blew all of a five-run lead in the second inning and gave up six runs in all. Still the Yankees’ bats carried the night in a 16-6 win at the Stadium.
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The righthander allowed eight hits, including three home runs. He struck out five.
“It’s a little hard because you don’t want one like that,” Pineda said.
He gave up the first of two solo shots to phenom Carlos Correa in the first inning and then a two-out grand slam to George Springer in the second inning. Springer’s homer pulled Houston within 6-5 before Starlin Castro’s three-run homer broke the game open for the Yanks.
Correa took him deep again in the fifth inning, the shortstop’s third home run in two games.
Pineda’s wasn’t the kind of performance that squared with what manager Joe Girardi was envisioning. Before the first pitch, Girardi said he believed that Pineda was finally ready to take a step forward and become the top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher the Yankees haven’t gotten because of shoulder and back injuries. He said 200 innings pitched seemed realistic.
“I just thought his stuff was a little bit inconsistent tonight,” Girardi said. “He almost got out of that big inning that he had . . . It was tough conditions for pitchers tonight. Not only was it cold, it was extremely windy. That makes it tough.”
“The first home run came on a good pitch,” catcher Brian McCann said. “The second one he left a little bit up. But I thought he looked good, better than the results.”
“In the second inning, I hang a little bit the slider and it’s a homer — that’s tough for me,” Pineda said. “Today I’m feeling like my slider was good except for the one I hung and they got a homer.”
Girardi said he feels Pineda has matured to the point where he knows the work needed to stay healthy and on the mound, which would be a change.
After being acquired from Seattle, he missed all of 2012 and 2013 with a shoulder injury and then had surgery on it; he made just 13 starts in 2014 because of an upper back strain; and he missed a month last year with a forearm malady.
“It’s my first game and I feel good and feel I can compete on the mound,” Pineda said. “I will be fine.”
The Yankees can only hope so.