Pineda's no-hit bid brings extra dose of intrigue
Girardi knew tough decision loomed with pitch count before Yanks righty served up homer
NEW YORK -- There was a moment in the Yankees' dugout after the sixth inning when Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild shared a knowing nod, realizing that the Yankees' manager and pitching coach were about to have an unpopular call on their hands.
Michael Pineda had just completed another inning of hitless ball in what would go into the books as a 2-1 victory over the Marlins, flashing no-hit stuff while sporting a pitch count that hinted loudly for some bullpen activity. History was not in the cards on this night.
"I kind of gave [Rothschild] a glance after the sixth; he kind of glanced back at me, knowing that this could be a really tough decision," Girardi said. "It's not one that you want to make, but it's probably one that you have to."
Christian Yelich bailed Girardi out of engaging that situation by clubbing a homer off Pineda to open the seventh inning, but that hardly spoiled the right-hander's dominant nine-strikeout effort.
Pitching on regular rest after having his last start -- a rough 4 1/3-innings outing against the Orioles in Baltimore -- pushed back due to innings concerns, Pineda retired the first 11 batters and said that he realized he was throwing a no-hitter around the fifth inning, but it did not affect his concentration.
"The only thing I'm thinking is, 'Go out there and try to do the best on the mound, attack the hitter and pitch,'" Pineda said. "Nothing changed. I tried to attack the hitter and pitch my game, and be happy on the mound."
Wielding a slider that he recognized as "really good" while throwing in the bullpen, Pineda struck out the first two hitters he faced and permitted just two balls hit into the outfield: Yelich's homer and Giancarlo Stanton's flyout to deep center in the next at-bat.
"He had more bite on his slider, pitched ahead all night, got ahead with his sliders," catcher Brian McCann said. "He went into lefties on the cutter and got some outs, so he could do whatever he wanted tonight with the ball."
Girardi said that the Yankees knew it was not ideal to push Pineda's last start back, but they did so because he has never exceeded 171 innings in a season, which he did in 2011 for the Mariners. Last season, Pineda threw just 76 1/3 frames in an injury-shortened campaign.
"Research shows you that major increases hurt players, and that's what I really have to manage," Girardi said. "It's not something that you ever want to skip a start or you want to pull him early, but you know for the long term, his long-term health for this season and seasons to come, you have to do it."
If Pineda keeps producing performances like this one, the Yankees will want to keep that on center stage as often as possible. Designated hitter Alex Rodriguez said that Pineda's entertaining gyrations spoke volumes about his growing confidence level as he ventured deeper into the game.
"I think it's his mannerisms," Rodriguez said. "If you look at him, he just starts looking very uncomfortable; that means he's very comfortable. I just like when he shows a lot of emotion out there and he's sweating and excited. I don't know what kind of sign language he's got going on, but he's pretty good."
Pineda said that his focus was on quick outs, and he got a couple more following the homer before exiting with exactly 100 pitches.
"I'm not really thinking too much," Pineda said. "The only thing I'm thinking on the mound is, 'Get outs.' That's what I want; get outs quick."