NOTE: if the video is better quality, it's due to KJR's Jason Puckett letting me try out his flip phone.
Look there will be some talk about whether or not facing Michael Pineda the second time somehow makes it easier to hit him. In a way it does, they know his arm slot, his mechanics, the pace at which he works, the way the ball comes out of his hand. They have a feel to it.
But is that the sole reason why the Rangers beat Pineda? No. If that was the case, he wouldn't have had nine strikeouts in seven innings. There isn't anything fancy about what Pineda does. He throws a lot of fastballs, uses his slider and will occasionally throw a changeup.
Basically, Pineda left a few fastballs up in the zone or out over the plate. And the Rangers can hit fastballs. They hit fastball really well, even when Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz aren't in the lineup.Pineda admitted that in the first inning he was tried to throw an easy fastball over the outside corner to Elvis Andrus. Instead Andrus lined it into center for a single. Adrian Beltre jumped on a first-pitch fastball and doubled to score Andrus. David Murphy scored Beltre by fighting off a slider and pulling it into right field to score Beltre.
“The first inning was a little tough, so I threw harder,” he said.
That simple adjustment seemed to work. With his fastball jumping up to 97, 98 and at times 99 miles per hour, Pineda cruised through the next three innings without allowing a baserunner.
“The first inning was a little trouble, but I think it is okay,” he said. “It’s the first inning and I’ve got a couple more innings.”
And he was pretty good for the next three. He then gave up a homer to Mitch Moreland to start the fifth. A left-hander hitter, Moreland got a fastball right down the heart of the plate on the first pitch of the inning and he crushed it into right-center. It was the first homer Pineda had given up this season.
He would give up his second two innings later when Chris Davis ripped an 0-2 fastball to right-center for a deep homer.
Why throw Davis, who is like Pedro Cerrano when it comes to curveballs - a fastball on 0-2 instead of the slider.
“I wanted to throw my fastball a little away,” he said. “I think the hitter is looking for my slider, but I threw my fastball away and it was a homer.”
It’s not where a 0-2 pitch should be.
“Michael has shown an ability to put hitters away with two strikes,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “But you have those guys up there, who can run into one, and you’ve got to make pitches even when you’re ahead 0-2.”
The homer cost Pineda (5-2) his streak of five straight quality starts (six innings pitches, three runs or less allowed). He still worked seven innings allowing four runs on seven hits, while striking out nine and walking none. Of his 97 pitches, 77 were strikes and he threw 22 first-pitch strikes to the 27 batters he faced.
“Michael threw the ball well again today,” Wedge said. “A couple of fastballs that they got to and turned around, but he still pitched well and gave us a chance to win the ballgame.”
But C.J. Wilson (4-1) took that chance away.
After giving up the second run in the third inning, he allowed just two hits the rest of the way and tied a career best, striking out 12 batters. He allowed just six hits and one walk, while throwing 125 pitches.
“He really kept the ball down today,” Wedge said of Wilson. “He was down in the zone all day long. He cuts the ball a little bit, adds and subtracts a little bit.”
It was Wilson’s fourth complete game of his career, his last one coming against the Mariners in 2010.
“I’ve seen him throw better games, but we certainly needed him to throw his best tonight,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Pineda has thrown better as well. But every start brings something new for the 22-year-old.
“Every time Michael goes out there, he’s going to get a little bit better, be a little bit wiser and be a little bit more experienced,” Wedge said.
The league will adjust to him. But he’s adjusting to them as well.
“He’s a great competitor,” Wedge said. “He’s out there and has a pretty good idea what he’s looking to do, trying to do and how to do it.”
Said Pineda of the loss: “It’s ok, maybe next time.”