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Michael Pineda Shuts Down Padres In Surprise Of A Lifetime

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Many years ago, I remember there was a game between the Padres and the Nationals. The Nationals held a commanding 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but the Padres wouldn't roll over. They put one guy on base. Then they put another guy on base. Then they put another guy on base. Then they put another guy on base. It was 5-1 Washington when Khalil Greene stepped up with two outs and the bases loaded, and it was then that Greene blasted a game-tying grand slam that I don't think I'll ever forget.

One reason I won't forget it is because of the Nationals announcer's reaction. But another reason I won't forget it is because the Padres just don't do that sort of thing. The Padres don't score runs. Not at home. In my experience, having watched and attended countless Padres games at Petco over the years, they frequently put on a boo-worthy offensive display not entirely unlike what we had to go through all last season.

So when the Mariners took the lead in the top of the second inning tonight, I couldn't shake the impression that the game was already over. And, as it turned out, it was, as the remaining seven and a half frames only confirmed my suspicions. It sounds really cocky and I am by no means a cocky Mariners fan, but Petco and the Padres have a funny way of making even the slimmest of leads feel secure.

Of course, having Michael Pineda on the mound didn't hurt. I would've felt good up 2-0 with Jason Vargas, but being up 2-0 with Pineda in San Diego is just about an invulnerable position. It was funny; Pineda started out like he was almost bored. His first fastball was 91. His next fastball was 91. Through four batters, he didn't break 94, and I even got a concerned text message from Matthew, wondering what was going on. Then Pineda turned it up a level. He threw 96 to Cameron Maybin. 95 to Kyle Phillips. 96 to Alberto Gonzalez. It took a little while for Pineda to get going, but once he got going, the Padres were helpless. Like extra helpless.

I'm just at such a loss for what I'm supposed to say at this point. Michael Pineda dominated again. Granted, it was the Padres, and it was in Petco Park, but he finished with two hits and a walk in seven innings, with nine guys punched out. Of the 55 swings Padres batters took, 17 of them missed. Once more, Pineda barely threw any changeups (two), but once more, it didn't matter. Not a single batter looked comfortable at the plate, and many looked like little piles of crap.

Here's a review of Pineda's final inning, in the bottom of the seventh:

  • four-pitch swinging strikeout of Brad Hawpe
  • four-pitch swinging strikeout of Cameron Maybin
  • five-pitch called strikeout of Orlando Hudson

Pineda even fell behind the left-handed Hawpe and Hudson before fighting his way back for the strikeouts. He had the batters guessing and missing, and he made Hawpe and Maybin in particular look awful. And this was his last inning. His final pitch was his 99th. There's no doubt in my mind that Pineda could've come back and pitched effectively in the eighth, because he was never under any real stress, but the last thing I'm going to criticize is the Mariners acting cautiously with Pineda's arm, because look what that arm is capable of doing. This is the kind of ability from a 22-year-old you both savor and preserve.

My sole complaint about Pineda's outing tonight is that it took him 13 pitches to strike out the side in the seventh, where it also took David Pauley 13 pitches to strike out the side in the eighth. But then, maybe Michael Pineda is just contagious.

What an absolutely amazing young pitcher he is.

And oh hey good news San Diego, tomorrow you get Felix Hernandez.

Super super super quick bullet holes:

  • Michael Pineda had never batted in a game before in his professional career. Tonight he took six swings and made contact with five of them, putting the ball in play twice. Both balls in play were simple tappers to the mound, but do you know how hard it is to hit a Major League pitch? Have you seen how much trouble Miguel Olivo has hitting Major League pitches?

  • Pineda reached base in his first at bat when Clayton Richard bobbled the comebacker. Richard then tried to pick him off.

  • Both Pineda and Richard flashed some big smiles while they were hitting tonight. Pitchers love hitting. Hitters love pitching. Either it's refreshing to get a break from the routine, or every single player in baseball chose the wrong career path.

  • With brother Jason Phillips watching on from the Mariners bullpen, Padres catcher Kyle Phillips made an ill-advised throwing error in the sixth, allowing a run to score from third. Boos cascaded down from those who were still paying attention. I'd love to know whether Jason Phillips felt bad or laughed his ass off.

  • Major League batting average on groundballs is the lowest it's been in a very very long time, and I wonder if more teams are incorporating shifts.

  • Miguel Olivo has drawn 14 walks in 149 trips to the plate, for a walk rate of 9.4%. His previous career best was 6.3%. His swing rate is down 5% from where it was a year ago. Miguel Olivo is not the hacker that he used to be, which is kind of disappointing, and also very much not.

  • Mike Wilson's first hit was just a slider he fought off and grounded through the hole the other way, but in the fourth he blasted a low-away fastball deep into the right-center gap for a double, and in the sixth he nearly left the yard against Pat Neshek. Tonight, we finally got a glimpse of Mike Wilson's power, and he's got a good amount of it.