Friday, March 7, 2014

Miguel Cabrera has won the American League MVP award in each of the past two seasons. Michael Pineda has pitched in the big leagues in two years. Friday night in Tampa, the two faced off on the diamond, and Pineda took Round 1.

After throwing a ball to leadoff the at-bat, Pineda fought back. Cabrera swung through a slider, strike one. Curveball taken for a strike. Up 1-2 in the count, Pineda went back to the slider and Cabrera swung right through it once again.

The strikeout of Cabrera was just one of the four that Pineda would rack up in his first appearance of the spring, and first against a major league team since 2012.

Even with Pineda's impressive performance, the Yankees almost didn't come away with the victory in this one, taking the game tied into the 9th after Matt Thornton gave up a pair of game-tying runs in the 7th, winning on a walk-off balk (yep) to beat the Detroit Tigers, 3-2, at GMS Field Friday night.

Zelous Wheeler and Francisco Cervelli put together back-to-back base hits to put runners on the corners with one out, and with Jose Gil batting, Luis Marte balked to bring home Wheeler, ending the game.

Hiroki Kuroda kicked off the night by tossing 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Kuroda, like in his opening outing against the Philadelphia Phillies last weekend, looked good, according to the baseball writers on Twitter that were out the game.

“I struggled with my precise control today, so that caused a high pitch count,” he said. “I think I was too cautious and trying to get both corners, but it didn't really work.”

Kuroda only gave up one hit, while striking out five and walking one. By my standards, he's been the best Yankees starter of the spring.

Shawn Kelley entered in relief of Kuroda in the 3rd inning, and had a pretty easy one-out night. David Robertson got in his second out of the season, throwing a scoreless 4th inning, striking out one.

Then came Pineda, who was good. Very good.

"He looked very good and healthy," a scout told ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand.

“We liked what we saw,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t want to make too much of it, but I’ve said all along he looks different what we've seen this spring compared to a couple of springs ago: the ball coming out of his hand, I thought he had cleaned up his mechanics a lot. This was a good step.”

Pineda had his fastball clocked in at 90-92 mph, and coming off of shoulder surgery, that's a good thing to hear. We've been waiting see Pineda pitch for a long time, and he did not disappoint tonight, striking out four in two innings, giving up just one single, and throwing 21 of 27 pitches for strikes.

“His slider was pretty much unhittable,” Brian McCann said. “… I think the thing I was impressed about was him pounding the zone with all of his pitches. He struck a guy out on a 0-2 slider. It was definitely encouraging.”

The Yankees scored one time in the game, and that was in the bottom of the 3rd inning when Carlos Beltran crushed a two-run homerun that might still be flying.

After Derek Jeter, who singled twice in the game, collected his second hit of the night to open the inning, Beltran took a swing that put the Yankees up 2-0.

The Tigers would tied the game in the 7th inning off of Thornton after Alex Avila grounded a one-out single into center field, then Austin Jackson tripled to score Avila, and Steve Lombardozz followed up with a single to bring home Jackson, tying the game.


Gavin Ewbank is Lead Writer of Yanks Beat Blog

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