Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat; It’s possible that Michael Pineda, making his second start of the year last night against the Red Sox, may or may not have had an illegal foreign substance on his pitching hand in the first few innings of this game. Cameras from the NESN (the Red Sox channel, of course) broadcast picked up a brown, slick looking substance on Pineda’s right wrist around the third inning. The YES network acknowledged the “gunk,” as I’m going to call it, and a controversy was born. Well, at least to people who don’t know anything about baseball.
I’m going to take a line from our favorite cartoon Scotsman, Groundskeeper Willie of “The Simpsons” fame: “I know it’s wrong, but every single Scottish person does it!” Basically, nobody knows what was on Pineda’s wrist because the Red Sox never brought it up with the umpires, and it was never investigated. The Yankees had very typical responses to the controversy. Pineda said it was just dirt, which he uses in between innings for a little grip on a cold night, and sweat from his hard evening of pitching. Joe Girardi said he never saw it, and so couldn’t really speak on it. The New York media tried to push it a little, but gave up fairly quickly when the protective “unspoken rule” wall went up. I was actually a lot more interested in what the Red Sox had to say about this. Clay Buchholz, whom we’ll all remember was called out for using an illegal substance (possibly sunscreen) last year, said the following:
“No, especially on cold windy nights, it’s tough to get a grip on the baseball. I had that instance last year in Toronto, people said I had stuff all over my body you can use — rosin, water, the whole sunscreen stuff, whatever. I’d rather have a grip on the baseball and semi-know where it’s going [than] have no grip and get somebody hurt. As hard as [Pineda] was throwing early, ain’t no one want to get hit, especially around the head. I don’t think any organization would want to do anything about it. Scuffing the ball is one thing, if you’re actually creating more control over where you want to throw it, giving you any type of edge. But as long as I’ve been around, I haven’t seen sticky substance give anyone an edge. If it gives them an edge, that’s another thing.a
Red Sox manager, John Farrell said that by the time he was made aware of it, the substance was gone, and so he couldn’t bring it up to the umpires. That may be true, but I’m willing to bet he didn’t bring it up because, as a former pitcher, he knows everyone does this. If, Like Buchholz said, It’s not necessarily being done to doctor the ball, but for grip on the baseball, no one really cares. Jon Lester was spotted with a mysterious substance on his glove during the World Series, and no one had the umpires investigate that. The World Series! If the Red Sox don’t care, it’s a non story.
Anyway, whether it was dirt, pine tar or friggin’ plutonium, Pineda pitched lights out last night, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning and even pitching well for two innings after the nefarious substance had been cleaned off. His final line for the night was pretty spectacular, at 6+ innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 BBs and 7 Ks on 94 pitches. He started the 7th, allowing a homer to Daniel Nava and a single to Xander Bogaerts, before Girardi pulled him out. It was a masterful performance, and I’m excited to have him be a part of this rotation. This guy missed two full years with a shoulder injury, and he’s pitching like he never even missed a bullpen session between starts. He just needs to hide his pine tar better.
The Yankees didn’t need much offense last night, but there were a couple of notable performances with the bats. Brian McCann, for one, broke an 0-14 slump with a sharp single down the line to plate the first run. It was McCann’s first hit at Yankees Stadium, and it was a biggie. Derek Jeter had 2 hits, while Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury each had one hit each. Ellsbury’s single drove in Jeter for the fourth run in the bottom of the 5th. Dean Anna had a very important hit of his own, smacking a change up over the right field fence for a solo homer in that 5th inning as well. It was Anna’s first major league home run, against the Red Sox in the Bronx… He will never forget that one. The Yangervis Solarte MVP Watch took a bit of a hit, however, as our favorite son went 0-3. He did get robbed of a single by a diving Daniel Nava in his first at bat and fooled everyone, including the camera man and MLB Gameday, into thinking he’d hit his first big league home run in his last at bat–it fell short–but there were no hits to be had. Pick it up, Yangervis!
Final kudos of the night goes to David Phelps. Phelps, who struggled in his first couple of outings this year, followed Cesar Cabral after Pineda was removed in the 7th (kudos to Cabral for striking out both lefties he faced too). Phelpsy finished off the 7th inning, made it through the heart of the Red Sox order with 2 strikeouts in the 8th and pitched a 123 9th for his first career save. The Yankees bullpen was well short handed, so this was a huge outing for Phelps. Good job, youngster.
The Yankees play the Sox again tonight, with CC Sabathia taking on Jon Lester… at least if the weather holds up. I hope it does, because I’ll be in the house tonight!
Featured image courtesy of: Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News
- http://www.espn.go.com/mlb/story?storyId=10765635&city=newyork (back)
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