Every day should be like this. A few hours after shutting out the Cubs in the first game of the doubleheader, the Yankees did it again on Wednesday night, blanking Chicago by the score of 2-0 to sweep the quick two-game series.
Blanked By Big Mike
Even though he threw six shutout innings, I thought this was Michael Pineda’s worst start of the season so far. He fastball velocity was down a tick or two and his stuff just wasn’t as crisp as it has been. There were a few cement-mixer sliders throughout the night. The career-low five swings and misses wasn’t much of an accident. Pineda was not as sharp as he was in his first two starts and Wednesday was more of a grind.
And yet, six shutout innings. Four hits, one walk, three strikeouts, and a bunch of weakly hit fly balls. That’s Pineda’s thing. He allows a lot of fly balls but they are usually popped up, not well-struck. With this outfield defense, those are close to automatic outs. Pineda’s biggest jam came in the fifth, when the Cubs put runners on second and third with one out. He stranded both with a strikeout and a weak fly ball. A runner was also stranded at third in the sixth.
Here is the PitchFX data from Brooks Baseball. I think it’s worth noting Pineda threw the same number of changeups as sliders (17 each) and also got the same number of swings and misses with each pitch (two). He’s really been using that changeup quite a bit so far, and some of them have been really good too. There are still a few hangers though. Pineda threw only 89 pitches in his six innings as the Yankees continue to take it easy on him following shoulder surgery. That this was his worst start of the season so far tells you how dominant he was the first two times out.
The Yankees did not have a great offensive game — they left 12 runners on base, including five in the first three innings– but they did come through with two big two-out hits to score their only runs. Brett Gardner did the honors in the fourth inning, pulling a single through the right side to score Scott Sizemore from second base. Sizemore beat out an infield single earlier in the inning, then moved up on John Ryan Murphy’s single to left. They were the first hits of the season for Sizemore and Murphy, both of whom were added to the roster just yesterday.
One inning later, Sizemore drove in the second run of the game with a soft little bloop single to left. I thought he broke his bat on the play. Alfonso Soriano scored from second after reaching on a single earlier in the inning. Yangervis Solarte also picked up a base hit in the inning to help things along. The Yankees really scattered their 12 hits — I was surprised to see it was that many after the game, to be honest — and they only struck out three times as a team. This could have been a real frustrating loss if the pitching hadn’t been so good.
Three Shutout Innings
Even with David Robertson on the DL, the bullpen has not allowed a run in the last six games now. The trio of David Phelps (1.1 innings), Matt Thornton (0.2 innings), and Adam Warren (one inning) chucked the final three frames on Wednesday, though they weren’t the easiest innings. Phelps put the first two men he faced on base before retiring the next three, then two of the first three batters in the ninth reached base. The tying run moved into scoring position on Warren’s wild pitch. Thankfully, the Cubs are just too futile and they were unable to capitalize.
This was the first time a team was shut out in both ends of the doubleheader since June 1988, when the Twins did it to the Athletics. The Yankees threw their first back-to-back shutouts since August 7th and 8th in 2009, against the Red Sox. I think that was the four-game series with the 15-inning game and the back-to-back homers off Daniel Bard. You remember that, right? Of course you do.
Carlos Beltran, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Sizemore all had two hits, though Beltran picked up the only extra-base hit of the night (a double). Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Solarte all had one hit apiece. Kelly Johnson went 0-for-4 and was the the only starter who failed to reach base. He’s still slugging .533, by the way.
The Yankees have won four straight games and five of their last six. Since dropping those first two games of the season to Astros, they’ve won eight of 12. Only the Athletics have a better record in the AL right now.
The Yankees are heading out on a seven-game, eight-day road trip, which will begin in Tampa on Thursday. Former Cy Young winning left-handers CC Sabathia and David Price will meet in the first of four games.