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48° Good Afternoon

Rays were unable to tune in to Michael Pineda’s slider

Michael Pineda #35 of the New York Yankees

Michael Pineda #35 of the New York Yankees reacts during an inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 10, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Steven Souza Jr. ambled through the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium singing to the tune of “New York, New York.”

“Start spreading the news . . .

Pineda threw strikes.

We lost! We lost!”

The Rays rightfielder may not get any parts on Broadway, but his musical stylings were accurate. That’s not even counting his other stanza, which included the assertion that on Monday, Michael Pineda could throw his slider with pinpoint accuracy.

The result? Not a single Tampa Bay Ray reached base until Evan Longoria’s double with two outs in the seventh inning broke up Pineda’s bid for a perfect game.

“He was throwing it wherever he wanted,” Longoria said (sans singing) of the slider. “He was back door to the lefties and down and away for strikes for the righthanders, and when he wanted to add a little more velocity or depth or take a little bit off, he really had a good feel for it today . . . Once he got through the fifth inning, the intensity on the mound definitely started to ramp up.”

There are perfect-game attempts and then there are perfect-game attempts, and by the later innings, Pineda seemed primed to make some history. He had thrown only 93 pitches when he was yanked with two outs in the eighth, and at times, he made the Rays hitters look downright silly. The pitcher they manhandled only five days earlier — they touched up Pineda for four runs and eight hits in 3 2⁄3 innings April 5 — now looked absolutely untouchable.

“It can be sometimes,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said when asked if Pineda was something of a mystery. “You know you’re going to get really good stuff. We’ve had some games where we happened to get some guys on base and the home run comes, but the stuff doesn’t change. He always shows a real ly, really strong fastball-slider approach.”

Pineda made exactly two mistakes Monday, the only two hits he allowed. The first came on that double by Longoria and the second came an inning later, when Logan Morrison blasted an 0-and-1 fastball to right-center for a home run. “I think he was doing a good job of mixing his slider in and putting it in a good spot where it was in the bottom of the zone or diving down below,” Morrison said.

Despite getting two diametrically opposed versions of Pine da, no one on the Rays seemed surprised. Souza the songster did say that Monday was something special, though.

“That was the best I think I’ve seen him so far,” he said. “He had his slider going. He could throw it for a strike, he could bury it, he could put it on the corner. He was good today.”

And as a reward, Pineda can make a brand-new start of it in New York, New York.


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