OAKLAND, Calif. — Michael Pineda stood taller, literally, extending his body to the maximum, which is considerable for someone who is 6-7. And also figuratively, finally looking like the pitcher he and the Yankees believed he was.
It had been a difficult seven starts for Pineda, who was winless in each of them. But he came to the mound at O.co Coliseum on Sunday after working on standing more erect, which would help him throw sliders to the bottom of the strike zone.
“My old pitches, down, down,” he said. “That’s what I was looking for. I threw the ball better. My body was a little higher.”
And his earned run average was a little lower, sliding from 6.60 to 6.34 after he allowed three earned runs in six innings in the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Oakland A’s.
It was the first win for Pineda (2-5) since April 6, at which point he was 1-0. But even in that game, he allowed six runs and eight hits, including three home runs, in five innings in a 16-6 win over the Astros.
“I think he threw the ball a lot better today,” manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees’ fifth straight victory, all without an opponent scoring more than four times.
“A run in the first he shouldn’t have given up. [Billy Burns scored after stealing second and third when Pineda failed to hold him close.] Then the double over Brett Gardner’s head in the fifth [for the other two runs]. I was encouraged. I felt there was more consistency in his stuff, and that’s the most important thing.”
A native of the Dominican Republic, Pineda understands and speaks English well enough, but for some of the more complex questions — “Are you back or still a work in progress?” — he relies on a translator.
“I have more work to do” was Pineda’s untranslated answer to that. “Today I go to the mound, the team has won the other three here, just wanting to do my best to give my team the win, the same as the others.”
The eternal line is that baseball is a game of adjustments. What worked the last time out might not work this time.
“In spring training, we knew we had really good starters here,” said Pineda, including himself in that group. “The only thing we needed to do was go to the mound and do your best every five days. I’m always fighting, grinding to win.”
But to the public, intent usually is secondary to results. As the losses mounted, so did the criticism, not abnormal in sports. For now, at least, the critics are stilled.
“I feel very happy,” Pineda said when asked how satisfying it was to record that second victory. “I’m winning. My team’s winning, so I’m happy.”