SEATTLE – Michael Pineda is making quality starts as routine as his 97-mph fastball and knee-buckling slider. In a 5-2 Seattle Mariners victory Monday night over the Minnesota Twins, that basically was Pineda’s formula.
The Twins, with baseball’s worst record at 12-27, became easy fodder for the rookie right-hander, who held them to three hits in seven shutout innings.
It was his seventh quality start – pitching at least six innings while allowing no more than three earned runs – and the eighth time in his eight starts to pitch at least six innings.
“We talk about commanding the ballgame,” manager Eric Wedge said. “That’s ultimately what you want your starting pitcher to do – set the tempo by his standards, and that’s what he did.”
Pineda went to three balls on just two of the 26 batters he faced and didn’t allow his first hit until there were two outs in the third inning. He faced adversity only once the entire game when the Twins loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth and Michael Cuddyer at the plate. It was a dangerous situation, with the Mariners leading 2-0.
So, Pineda went after Cuddyer with the fastball and slider? That and his left leg.
Cuddyer bounced a sharp grounder up the middle that, off the bat, seemed destined for center field and two Twins runs.
Instead, the ball grazed Pineda’s leg just enough to re-direct it to second baseman Adam Kennedy, who started a 1-4-6 forceout at second base.
“He had to battle through it right there,” Wedge said. “They had their opportunity there but he had to settle down and make pitches in a tight ballgame.”
Pineda went on to retire the Twins 1-2-3 in the seventh and, with his pitch count at 99 and the Mariners treating him carefully in his first big-league season, Wedge let the bullpen finish.
Aaron Laffey pitched 11/3 hitless innings and Jamey Wright got the final two outs in the ninth although two Mariners errors, by Kennedy playing first base and third baseman Chone Figgins on a bad throw, allowed the Twins to score their two runs.
Still, it gave Pineda his first victory since April 18, after a loss and a no-decision, and he’s 5-2 with a 2.45 earned run average.
“I feel very excited,” he said. “It’s win No. 5 for me. I worked hard for it.”
The Mariners worked hard for their five runs, too. It was only the second time in 13 games the Mariners scored at least five runs.
Jack Cust’s double to right field scored Figgins for a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and Justin Smoak’s double in the third scored Ichiro Suzuki for a 2-0 score.
After Pineda escaped his jam in the top of the sixth, Kennedy and Carlos Peguero managed something rare for this power-deficient team. They hit two-out, back-to-back home runs off Twins starter Scott Baker, giving the Mariners a 4-0 lead. It was the Mariners’ first back-to-back homers since Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez did it Aug. 16 last year at Baltimore.
Both home runs sailed out to right field, and Peguero’s was a low line drive that barely got over the wall and inside the foul pole.
“You’re not going to hit them much harder than that,” Wedge said. “I didn’t even have time to get up and see if it was fair or foul.”
Kennedy also hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth to score Brendan Ryan, who’d replaced Smoak as a pinch runner. Smoak twisted his right ankle during a swing before he drew a walk.
Wedge pulled Smoak as a precaution and said he should be fine. Then, after the game, he delivered a Wedge-ism to reporters.
“I didn’t want to take a chance of taking something that’s really nothing and making it worse,” he said.
The Mariners managed eight hits and four walks, and Wedge said the at-bats were better in their first victory since May 6.
“We created opportunities for ourselves and took advantage of those opportunities,” he said, reminding, however, who the real hero was, “Michael set the tone out there.”
M’s release Bradley
The Mariners released Milton Bradley, ending the struggling outfielder’s brief and tumultuous tenure with the team, the Associated Press reported.
The Mariners had designated Bradley for assignment on May 9, giving them 10 days to trade, release or send him to the minors. The 33-year-old, who was making $13 million this season, hit .218 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 28 games.