Michael Pineda's first fastball of the game today was 93 miles per hour. His second was 94. His third was 96.
For much of the season, we've seen Pineda come a little slow out of the gate. We've regularly seen his fastball sit at below-average velocity in the first inning. It was dreadfully alarming at first, but then we learned it was deliberate, part of a plan of his to conserve energy for later. Instead of coming right out and throwing 96, he'd gradually work his way up there and settle into a groove.
It seemed to work all right for a while. For a while, Pineda didn't give us much to complain about. But on July 19th, against the Blue Jays, Pineda allowed two first-inning runs. Then on July 24th, against the Red Sox, Pineda allowed five first-inning runs. It looked like opposing batters were starting to take advantage of his early-game warm-ups, and there were questions about whether or not he could afford to keep it up.
So this afternoon, he took a different approach. This afternoon, instead of building up, he came right out blazing. He averaged 95mph with his heater in the first, picking up a pop out and a pair of strikeouts. Then he averaged 95 the rest of the way. And at the plate, the Rays never had a chance.
Pineda issued four walks. He hit a batter. Of his 110 pitches, 46 were balls, and he departed in the seventh with one out and two on. This afternoon, Michael Pineda didn't have pinpoint command. This afternoon, Michael Pineda didn't have large-serving-tray command. This was a somewhat wild pitcher the Mariners had on the mound.
But that's kind of what makes his effort so terrifying. Pineda was wild, unable to locate as well as he usually does, and he finished with ten strikeouts in 6.1 innings, allowing one hit. Pineda delivered his best start in weeks, and though he wasn't a serious threat to make history, that first and only hit didn't come until there were two outs in the sixth. Pineda had the upper hand.
This isn't the first time Pineda's worked pretty deep with a no-hitter bid, and it's unlikely to be the last, because when he's working with his good velocity and breaking off his slider, he's one of the more difficult pitchers to hit in the league. It's what allows him to survive on days like this when he isn't spotting like he wants to. He doesn't have to spot like he wants to, because he has the stuff to compensate. And when he is spotting like he wants to, he's basically a 6'7 street signing reading "U-TURN ONLY."
Pineda was just a pleasure to watch today. Truth be told, the whole game was a pleasure to watch. It's weird, because the Mariners came in with a lousy record and the game was taking up three hours of a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but I think it was a blend of two things. For one, the Mariners got their big contributions from young talents that could be around for a while. And for two, there was a big trade this morning. The roster was fairly significantly shaken up.
And I think a trade like that kind of hits the reset button in a fan's mind. Everybody came in disappointed that the M's had lost 18 of 19 games, but the trade showed that things were changing. It kind of creates a divider, where there was a Mariners team before the trade, and a Mariners team after the trade. The Mariners team after the trade isn't all that different from the Mariners team before the trade, but the trade signals a shift, and it gets everybody thinking less about the past and present and more about the future. Games are less annoying and more leisurely when you can actually just watch them and think about the future.
It looked good today. Today was one of those hope-building days. There was Pineda. I remember when people thought Pineda's closest competition for the AL Rookie of the Year was Zach Britton. Pineda did this. Britton allowed eight runs in 0.2 innings on July 8th, went to the minors, came back today, and allowed nine runs in 0.1 innings. Pineda obviously isn't perfect, but he's a hell of a lot better than a rookie ought to be.
And there were Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp. Other guys did good things too, including Jeff Gray and Brandon League and Josh Bard, but Ackley and Carp were the most visible. In the first, Ackley clobbered a changeup out to deep center field for his fifth home run. In the sixth, he ripped a fastball - the tenth pitch of the at bat - into the right-center gap for a double. Two pitches later, he scored when Carp went down and pulled a change into right. Ackley drove in two of the runs, Carp drove in the other, and Pineda kept the Rays quiet. The Mariners were a Justin Smoak multihit game away from delivering just about the perfect afternoon.
Maybe I'm just too positive. I feel like I'm too positive. I'm in too good a mood today, and I don't know why. But the M's game didn't hurt. Pineda was awesome. Carp stung a ball. And Ackley raised his OPS to .904 with his 16th and 17th extra-base hits. This was a good one. And with new blood reporting tomorrow, there's lots to be excited about. Or at least, lots to be interested in. I don't know how excited one is supposed to get about Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush, but I'm not not looking forward to watching them play.
Mediocre team. Fun game. Hope. All right.