ARLINGTON, Texas - Michael Pineda’s major league debut got rave reviews from his teammates, who said the only thing he lacked in holding the Texas Rangers to three runs Tuesday was ...
... wait for it ...
The Seattle Mariners went through all of last season without consistently supplying that to any pitcher, so when Pineda lost his first career start, 3-2, he joined a group that included, well, every pitcher the team has had in the past 167 games.
“Michael did his job,” manager Eric Wedge insisted. “He should feel real good about the way he pitched against that team in this ballpark.”
“From the beginning of the game, he was like, ‘Come and get it,’ ” catcher Miguel Olivo said.
Pineda’s biggest problem may have been his opposite number, Alexi Ogando, who also was making his first big-league start. After five innings, the two right-handers were locked in a classic duel, with the Rangers leading, 1-0.
Texas’ run came on a play that made the Mariners miss their Gold Glove center fielder, Franklin Gutierrez, all the more.
With a man on first and two outs, outfielder Mitch Moreland hammered a ball to deep center field. Michael Saunders had a to make a long run in a hurry – the kind of thing Gutierrez specializes in.
“It was hit well and tailing away,” Saunders said. “I put my head down and ran and made my best judgment where it would land. I got to the fence and jumped and heard it hit the fence.”
It hit the fence – below Saunders – and bounced back toward the infield, an RBI triple.
“I think Michael thought it was hit better than it was,” Wedge said.
By no means was it a routine play. But if anyone was going to make it, it would likely have been a Gold Glover like Gutierrez.
Offensively, the Mariners didn’t get a man as far as second base until the fifth inning, although neither Jack Wilson nor Saunders could get him home.
In the sixth inning, the Rangers broke through against Pineda.
A leadoff single was followed by a sacrifice bunt, then a fastball up that American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton hit for an RBI double and a 2-0 lead. With two outs, Pineda fell behind Michael Young, elevated a changeup and paid for it when Young doubled Hamilton home.
As most Mariners remember from 2010, three runs for the opposition was usually more than Seattle could match, let alone surpass.
Five games into 2011, they are now 2-3, and the three-run rule applies. In their two victories, they’ve scored more than three runs. Those three losses? Seven runs total.
On Tuesday, the two runs came in the seventh inning, driven in by Wilson and Saunders with one out. Then Ichiro Suzuki reached on an error to load the bases with one out.
Chone Figgins popped out. Milton Bradley flied out.
The bases stayed loaded.
“We didn’t finish that one inning,” Wedge said. “It cost us.”
Pineda, 23, pitched like a flinty-eyed veteran against a team that has few offensive issues and is now 5-0 in the American League West. In their first four victories, the Rangers scored 32 times – and average of eight a game.
Pineda held them to three. The Mariners, meanwhile, had averaged a tick over four runs a game, and Ogando and his bullpen held them to two.
“It was fun watching those two young guys pitch,” Adam Kennedy said. “I’m biased toward our guy. I thought Michael had more pitches, better composure. Those two are going to be competing for a lot of years.”
Asked how he’d felt in that first big-league appearance, Pineda gave a shy smile.
“I was not nervous, I was excited,” he said. “I was working on that mound. My teammates told me, these guys can hit, keep the ball down. My fastball was my best pitch. My slider was pretty good tonight, and I threw the change to right and left-handed hitters.
“The second strikeout in the first inning, Hamilton, that was a changeup.”
Catcher Olivo said one or two times he motioned for Pineda to slow down, take a breath.
“I was amazed by him,” Olivo said. “He made maybe two bad pitches in six innings.”
Over six innings, Pineda allowed five hits, one walk, struck out four and threw 84 pitches. He was more than willing to go back out for the seventh, but when the Mariners had that long inning, Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis decided he’d done enough.
Jamey Wright came in and shut the Rangers out for two innings.
After four games at second base this season, and one night after turning a spectacular double play from that position, Jack Wilson started at shortstop Tuesday. “It was the opportunity to get Adam Kennedy into a game ... and get Jack time at shortstop, where he’ll play from time to time this season,” Wedge said. Ryan has struggled at the plate, batting .083. ... Pineda’s major-league debut marked the first time a rookie pitcher had opened the season in Seattle’s starting rotation since Freddy Garcia did it in 1999. ... The Mariners’ home opener on Friday has not yet sold out; 3,700 tickets were still available late Tuesday. Ex-Mariner Mark Lowe relieved in the seventh inning, and the first Seattle batter he faced was Justin Smoak – the man for whom he was traded in a five-player deal last July.
Seattle plays its final game of the trip at 11:05 a.m. PDT to be broadcast on ROOT. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (1-0, 2.00 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (0-0, 3.18).