New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda put on a show on Monday, but how he responds will have a bigger bearing.
In his first start, he served up four runs on eight hits over 3.2 innings of work against the Tampa Bay Rays. Then, in the warmest home opener since 1960, Pineda faced the same Rays and flirted with a perfect game en route to finishing a masterful seven-plus-inning performance with 11 strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
Don’t let a mere stat line diminish what we saw on Monday, though. The 28-year-old’s performance in front of an electric Yankee Stadium crowd of 46,955 was extraordinary and will be talked about for quite some time.
What were the grounds of success? Well, when you’re pumping a fastball at 95 mph, inducing a whiff rate of almost 40 percent on your slider and staying composed, odds are things will often go your way.
At face value, again, this start was unforgettable. But, remember who we’re talking about here. Since coming to the Bronx, Pineda trends up and looks like an ace that can carry the Yankees to the postseason just to collapse into an even longer stretch in which he makes the brass, scouts and fans scratch their heads.
So, yes, this is a very encouraging start and gives New York plenty to look forward to — especially considering the current state of the rotation — but you can’t forget the last time he set the bar astronomically high.
On May 10, 2015, Pineda turned in his then-signature Yankee start by sending down 16 Baltimore Oriole hitters via strikeout and didn’t allow a single walk over seven innings of work. That tied David Cone and David Wells for the second-most strikeouts in a single game by a Yankee starter and, like Monday, he set an example for how brilliant he can truly be.
Yet, how did he follow up his Mother’s Day Performance?
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Over his final 20 starts of the season, Pineda posted a 7-10 record, surrendered 102 runs over 114.1 innings of work (5.04 ERA) and served up 18 home runs. In six starts of the 20 starts, opposing teams scored five or more runs against him.
He’s shown this type of potential before and while no one should take away Pineda’s sheer dominance showcased on Monday, it shouldn’t make you misremember what he’s done over his 73 starts preceding this year’s gorgeous home opener. Let’s be honest with each other, this start isn’t going to singlehandedly lift the inconsistency monkey off Pineda’s back.
He’s notorious for being unable to finish batters, finish innings and is anti-clutch in every aspect of the term. This start has sparked optimism, he has yet to erase the ups and downs that have framed his four-year Yankee career.
However, it’s a stepping stone and the next stretch of starts will be insanely telling.
Will consistency be found? Is a sequel to 2015 in store? Whether it’s found or not, whatever transpires from now until he becomes a free agent this winter will define his Yankees’ legacy.