Game Five Recap
Welcome to the show, Michael Pineda. In reality, it would have been tough for that start to get much better. Besides the one mistake pitch to Moreland that resulted in a triple, he was dominant for the first four innings, throwing strikes with all three pitches and rolling through a good Rangers line-up. It was pretty easy to see why he’s so highly thought of, as he flashed good command of top shelf stuff. There aren’t many guys his size with that kind of repertoire who can throw strikes with regularity – it’s a special combination.
The right-handed hitters in the Rangers’ line-up looked overmatched for most of the game. On the night, Texas’ RHBs went 2 for 17 with a walk and three strikeouts. The left-handed bats, though, were 3-7 with three extra base hits. This is what we’ve been talking about with Pineda; the change-up just isn’t good enough to get lefties out regularly yet, and so he’s probably going to post a pretty big platoon split this year.
That’s okay, as long as he keeps working on it. He doesn’t have to be perfect yet. He’s 22 – warts are allowed. It was great to see him getting good right-handed hitters out tonight. For him to take the leap and be a true frontline starter, he’s going to have to get lefties out too. He wasn’t great at that tonight, but it’s just his first start, and there was no reason to expect him to be great at it tonight.
I was somewhat surprised at the decision to let Pineda pitch to Josh Hamilton in the sixth inning, however. After Andrus bunted Kinsler to second base, Hamilton came up with one out and first base open. Following him were Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, and Nelson Cruz, all right-handed batters. It was a 1-0 game, and a base hit would double the Rangers lead. Josh Hamilton won the AL MVP last year. Walking him would set up a potential inning ending double play. Pineda had dispatched Beltre easily in his last trip to the plate. There were a host of reasons to put Hamilton on base, but Wedge chose to let the kid go after him.
I’m sure there will be some comments about how it was good for the kid’s confidence to give him a chance there, but I’d have had Felix walk Hamilton in that situation too. There’s room for showing Pineda that you believe in him, but there’s also just a time for sound logic and good strategy. Walking Hamilton in that situation would have been the latter.
Overall though, a very nice debut for Pineda. Again, the M’s lose but there are encouraging things to take away – Michael Saunders getting a base hit off of Darren Oliver (one of the toughest LHPs in baseball) was nice to see as well, and there’s not much shame in losing to the Rangers by a run.
There were some frustrating things (Chone Figgins, I’m looking at you), but for now, we’ll stay mostly focused on the positive. Pineda’s debut offered a nice glimpse into what the future could be. It’s not here yet, but it’s not too far off.