The absolute joy with which Michael Pineda has embraced all things baseball - and everything about the Seattle Mariners - is starting to spread like a smile across his team.
He is 23 and, yes, a bit naive. More than a bit awed by the fun of it.
Tonight, in his ninth big-league start, he won his sixth game with seven shutout innings of the San Diego Padres, delighted in talking about his first professional at-bats, his first base-running exploits and, of course, his pitching.
Pineda wasn't alone.
“Michael is dominating,” said outfielder Mike Wilson, who had two hits and a pair of RBI. “He’s throwing that fastball in and out, and if he gets that slider working, you just sit back and watch the show.”
“I haven’t hidden my thoughts on him. His stuff is so good, that when he gets that slider working, it’s pretty much ‘Good night!’” shortstop Brendan Ryan said.
Pineda's first at-bat induced a slow roller back to the pitcher that somehow rolled through Clayton Richard for an error. But let Pineda tell you about it.
“I hit a little ground ball back to the pitcher and I was running nice and easy to first base,” he said. “Then I look and the pitcher made an error, and I was running faster.”
And that slider of his?
“I threw the fastball inside on the corner, then threw the slider and they swung and missed,” he said. “I said, ‘Ok, thank you – I’ll throw it more.’”
For the Mariners, this was the eighth consecutive game the starting pitcher has worked at least seven innings. Pineda's sixth win of the season was Seattle's 21st, and pulled them to within a half game of third place in the American League West.
Pineda's earned run average is now 2.16, and in 58 1/3 innings, he's walked 14 batters and struck out 61.
He's clearly having fun, and his teammates are enjoying both Pineda and his talents. Winning four in a row with Felix Hernandez waiting to pitch tomorrow, well that doesn't hurt.