For the first time in 2016, the Yankees are three games over .500. Monday night’s 2-1 win over the Astros improved the Yankees to 51-48 on the season. They’ve won ten of their last 14 games, all against the Indians, Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, and Astros. Those are pretty good teams!
Seven Strong For Pineda
Michael Pineda put the Yankees in a 1-0 hole one pitch into his start. The Yankees went down quickly 1-2-3 in the top of the first, then George Springer smacked Pineda’s very first pitch of the bottom half over the right field wall for a solo homer. That was … stinky. Not the best start to the inning or the game. It immediately felt like it was going to be one of those Pineda starts, you know?
To Big Mike’s credit, he calmed right down and gave the Yankees seven strong innings. His biggest jam, by far, came in the sixth inning, when Jose Altuve beat out an infield single and both Carlos Correa and Luis Valbuena drew walks, all with two outs. Pineda retired 17 of 19 batters between the Springer homer and Altuve infield single, including seven on strikeouts. His slider was really, really sharp in the middle innings.
Pineda managed to escape that bases loaded jam in the sixth when rookie Alex Bergman hit a baseball here:
Aaron Hicks went all Ichiro on everyone and played that fly ball like it was a grand slam ten rows up before settling under the ball and making the routine catch on the warning track. That didn’t look good off the bat and Hicks didn’t make it any better with the little fake out. I’m guessing Astros fans are more annoyed about that than Yankees fans.
Pineda finished the night having allowed just that one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out eight and got a ridiculous 19 swings and misses out of 103 total pitches. That includes 14 swings and misses on his slider alone. Last time out Pineda generated 18 whiffs with his slider, the most in MLB this season by any pitcher. Not too shabby. Pineda’s got a 3.30 ERA in his last ten starts, you know.
The Bottom of the Order Comes Through
You’ll be surprised to learn Dallas Keuchel dominated the Yankees pretty much all night. Up until the top of the eighth, basically. He retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced before Didi Gregorius knocked a two-out double into the right-center field gap with two outs in the fourth. Chase Headley made it count with a two-out bloop single to score Gregorius and knot the game up at 1-1.
Three innings after that, the Yankees finally got to Keuchel again, when he was clearly running out of gas and starting to leave some pitches up. Headley poked a single through the right side to open that eighth inning, then Austin Romine came through with a booming double over Carlos Gomez’s head in center field. The ball just kept carrying and carrying and carrying. I thought Gomez was going to catch it with ease off the bat, but nope.
That was pretty much all the Yankees could muster against Keuchel. A run in the fifth, a run in the eighth, and two other baserunners. That’s it. They wasted Carlos Beltran‘s leadoff double in the fourth and a Beltran single/Ronald Torreyes stolen base combo leading off the ninth. The Yankees have won seven of their last nine games and they’ve scored three or fewer runs in four of those seven wins. Hooray pitching! Boo offense!
With Aroldis Chapman now a Cub, the Yankees are back to using Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth. It feels right, you know? Betances struck out the side in the eighth, but Miller had an interesting ninth, and it wasn’t necessarily his fault. He did allow a leadoff bloop single to Valbuena, but a quick strikeout of Bregman followed, then Evan Gattis banged into what looked like a game-ending double play. The Yankees instead got no outs.
Starlin Castro, who had brutal game on both sides of the ball, stepped off second a moment too soon when turning the double play. Gattis beat out the return throw, so instead of the game being over, the Astros had runners at first and second with one out. Not good! Thankfully Gomez banged into an inning-ending double play as the next batter. This time Starlin stayed on the base to complete the play. That is Miller’s eighth save of the season and his seventh as the designated closer.
Like I said, Castro had a brutal game. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at the plate, and the one time he did put the ball in play, he failed to advance the runner from second to third with one out in the ninth. Starlin also botched Gattis’ potential double play. The other day Castro had maybe his best game of the season on both sides of the ball. This was one of his worst.
The Yankees had seven hits: two each by Beltran, Headley, and Romine, and one by Gregorius. They drew zero walks for the ninth time this season after doing it eight times all of last year. Part of that is Keuchel pounding the strike zone all night, but yeah, the lack of discipline has been noticeable this season.
And finally, Pineda took a line drive to what looked like his chest in the third inning. He make the play and stayed in the game with no problems. Pineda’s a big strong guy. One little line drive ain’t nothing.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and up to the minute standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages available as well. Here’s the ol’ graph of win probability:
The Yankees and Astros will play the middle game of this three-game series Tuesday night. Veterans CC Sabathia and Doug Fister will be on the mound for that one.