Michael Pineda is back in pinstripes, pitching in the Bronx for the first time since the “incident” and his injury and long DL stint in months. Tonight, he faced the Astros, threw 89 pitches into the 7th inning, allowed 4 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 3 batters. He was floating along just fine, even with an allowed RBI double in the 4th. But he walked the first batter in the 7th and was relieved by David Huff.
That runner would go on to score under Huff, who seemed to struggle himself in that inning, allowing a single and getting the first out of the inning before turning over the mound to Esmil Rogers. Rogers promptly loaded the base (meaning each of the three pitchers from the inning had a runner on base). Another single scored Pineda’s runner, keeping the bases loaded, and then yet another single scored both Huff and Rogers’ runners. One more single scored yet another runner. And suddenly, the Astros had 5 runs scored before the end of the 7th inning.
Rogers would settle down in the 8th inning, and Whitley threw a flawless 13-pitch 9th inning. But the damage was done. It was far too late for the Yankees, which is a shame because Pineda started as well as Whitley finished the game. But bookends don’t win ball games; runs scored wins ball games. And the Yankees were short on that front too. Stephen Drew got a 2-out solo home run in the 4th inning (his 1st as a Yankee, by the way), and Ichiro Suzuki scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single in the 5th inning. But the score would stay 5-2 Astros.
It just wasn’t pretty, especially that mess of a 7th inning. But let’s talk about Brett Gardner who definitely put up some pretty defense (specifically in the bookends) — a sliding grab in the 1st inning and a dive over the left field wall into the crowd in the 9th inning. Gardner continues to prove his “Heart & Hustle” nomination at every game, as plays like these are so commonplace for the outfielder. Gardner is a great example of the continued legacy of the Yankees — a great player with passion and drive and character and excellence. And the Yankees already locked up his contract for the next few years; #11 isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so we’ll continue to see some amazing defensive plays out there in left field for some time now.