April 23, 2011 in Sports

Subpar Pineda gets job done for M’s

Kirby Arnold Everett Herald

SEATTLE – There were concerns about his off-speed pitches and doubts about his inexperience, but Michael Pineda answered all them all in his first three major league starts. A 98 mph fastball will do that, especially when Pineda throws it for strikes, as he had done in  a 2-1 to start the season.

What Pineda never had to prove was how he’d react when the good fastball command wasn’t there. How would he dial it back in when he’d lose control of it? How good would those developing secondary pitches be then?

Friday night at Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners’ 24-year-old rookie gave a pretty good indication.

Pineda worked only one clean inning among the six he pitched, but held the Oakland A’s to five hits and two walks in the Mariners’ 4-0 victory.

He faced tough situations in the second and sixth innings but retained his composure, regained his handle on the fastball and, as a result, raised his record and lowered his already paltry earned run average.

Pineda is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and, for one night, answered the question of how he handles some adversity.

“For a young man, he has a strong focus out there,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He doesn’t let things speed up on him for the most part.”

He was tested as early as the second inning, when he walked Hideki Matsui and Kurt Suzuki with nobody out, then fell behind in the count to Mark Ellis.

Pineda took a little more time than usual to get back atop the mound, and then became himself again.

He struck out both Ellis and Kevin Kouzmanoff – getting him with an 86 mph slider – and got Cliff Pennington on a grounder to first base for the third out.

“He had to work early, but he worked through it,” Wedge said. “We talk about the importance of handling situations, staying poised and making adjustments. He did a good job getting his pitch count back on line after that and he was able to give us six innings.”

The Mariners gave Pineda a run to work with in the bottom of the second  on Jack Wilson’s RBI single to score Adam Kennedy, but he faced another dicey situation in the fifth when the A’s threatened to tie the score.

Kouzmanoff bounced an infield hit off Pineda’s leg, then reached second on a wild pitch before moving to third when Pennington grounded out. 

With one out, the Mariners brought their corner infielders in – Chone Figgins at third base and Kennedy at first.When Coco Crisp hit a sharp grounder down the first-base line, Kouzmanoff sprinted toward the plate as Kennedy scooped up the ball. He made a quick throw to catcher Miguel Olivo, who put a high tag on Kouzmanoff as he slid home, but got the out call from plate umpire Cory Blaser.

Pineda finished that inning before the Mariners – aided by some wayward A’s pitching – scored three times in the bottom of the fifth to lead 4-0.

Jack Wilson, who went 2 for 4, led off with a single and Figgins followed with a one-out walk off A’s starter Tyson Ross.

The A’s brought in left-hander Jerry Blevins to face the Mariners’ three left-handed hitters – Michael Saunders, Jack Cust and Kennedy.

Blevins walked Saunders to load the bases, then did the same against Cust to force home a run. Kennedy followed with a two-run single to center, making the score 4-0.

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