The Yankees are back on track, as they went 5-2 on this pivotal homestand.
They had a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels and they won the first game against the Detroit Tigers on Friday night before dropping the final two.
The biggest takeaway from the homestand is that Michael Pineda is back on track.
Pineda turned in two good outings on the homestand, giving him three good starts in a row, and looks like he is finally over the slow start to his season.
Pineda’s good run began when he started the make-up game in Detroit on June 2 and allowed just one run on seven hits, with eight strikeouts and no walks, in 5 2/3 innings.
Last Tuesday against the Angels, Pineda went seven innings, and allowed just three runs on four hits with four strikeouts.
On Sunday against Detroit, Pineda gutted his way through six innings, and allowed just two runs on six hits, and struck out eight.
Pineda worked around a Miguel Cabrera double in the first and struck out the side in the second.
The fourth inning is where Pineda showed progress, and kept an inning in check that might have gotten way out of hand a month ago.
The Tigers got three singles to open the inning, and Pineda got Nick Castellanos to hit into a sacrifice fly to allow in a run to make it 1-0 Detroit. Justin Upton singled to re-load the bases, and Pineda settled in and got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to line out to short and struck out Mike Aviled to get out of the frame.
The Tigers manufactured a run in the fifth, as Ian Kinsler walked to open the inning and scored later on a Victor Martinez groundout.
Pineda said of the difference between the first few innings, where he cruised through them and the tough fourth, “The fourth inning, I was working behind the count, I got into a little trouble, and had to make adjustments.”
On holding Detroit to just one run in the fourth, Pineda said, “Just focus and making a good pitch, getting a ground ball, and getting outs.”
Pineda came out for the sixth inning and ended his day on a high note, as he retired the side in order and got two strikeouts.
Pineda leads the Yankees with 79 strikeouts and ranks sixth in the American League with a 9.68 K/9.0 IP ratio (79 K/72.0 IP). He has held opponents to three runs or fewer in eight of his 12 starts.
The problem Sunday was the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against rookie rookie sensation Michael Fulmer, who shut them out for six innings, and the Yankees fell to Detroit, 4-1.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of Pineda, “I thought he threw a good game. It was the third one, four of five, he’s thrown well. I think he’s getting a roll. It’s unfortunate we didn’t score him any runs, but I thought he pitched well.”
Girardi said of Pineda working out of jams better than early in the season, “Making pitches is the biggest difference. He’s not leaving pitches up or over the middle of the plate, and he’s done a much better job of expanding down in the zone with his slider and getting some swings and misses.”
Pineda said of his slider being better lately, “Yeah, my slider the last couple of starts is good, way better than the first couple months. I have been more consistent, my slider and location fastball has been good.”
This is a homestand that isn’t too hard to explain. The Yankees feasted on the weak pitching of the Angels and ex-Met Mike Pelfrey, who started for Detroit on Friday night before they ran into Justin Verlander on Saturday night and Fulmer on Sunday.
Girardi said of getting a read on his team this week, “I think we have a pretty good read. We know what our formula is for winning. Verlander’s been throwing well, Fulmer’s been throwing well, and we didn’t score a lot of runs these last two days. We’ve been in a long, long stretch. We hit some balls hard today. Think about the first ball Ref (Rob Refnsyder) hit (in the second inning with a runner at second base), you know if the winds not howling from left to right and it gets down, maybe it gets down and it’s a different game.
“We had a couple chances that we weren’t able to capitalize on, but I think we’re playing much better. I think our starting pitching has been much better. It really, that’s the big part, when youre starting pitchers are doing their job, you’re going to win a lot more games.”
Rob Refsnyder did a fine job at first base on the homestand, as he played the Tigers series after Chris Parmelee went down with an injury on Thursday night against the Angels. Parmelee had two home runs on Wednesday night, so it was a letdown to see him hit the disabled list.
Girardi said of the job Refsnyder has done at first base, “I think he’s done a good job. This is not an easy position to play. There’s a lot of little things that happen playing the position of first base that people don’t necessarily think about. I’ve said all along, I give him a lot of credit because he’s embraced it, he’s out early every day trying to pick things up. He’s done a pretty good job.”
Two Yankees outfielders, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran had big homestands.
Gardner had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday when he went 0-for-3. Gardner hit .500 (17-for-34) with 11 runs, 2 RBI, four walks, and a .553 on-base percentage during the streak.
Beltran had three home runs, 11 RBI, six runs scored, two doubles, and was 9-for-26 on the homestand.