When he got ahead, he dominated. When he fell behind, he got roughed up.
There is a reason the above could describe any pitcher, from Roy Halladay to Bartolo Colon, but it was especially true of Michael Pineda in his MLB debut tonight.
Pineda gave up three earned runs. The first runner that scored reached on a walk. Josh Hamilton drove the second in by smashing a 2-2 hanging slider to deep right-center field. And the last was on a 3-1 pitch that veteran Michael Young saw coming from Houston.
But all told, Mariner fans have to be happy with the debut of Pineda. He struggled less than young Felix Hernandez used to, wasting fewer pitches and simply dominating when he got ahead in the count.
Just ask Adrian Beltre, who chased an outside slider in the fourth that he needed a cricket bat to hit.
Or Michael Young, who followed Beltre by striking out on a 96 mile per hour heater that he might have fouled off with a tennis racket. The entire fourth inning lasted 10 pitches.
With an arsenal as intimidating as Pineda's—his fastball topped out around 96 and his slider hit about 86 with tight break on the outside half—it becomes nearly impossible for a hitter once he's behind in the count.
It is also promising that young Pineda never got rattled and didn’t cave to the big inning potential that the Rangers have. Entering the game, they led the majors in runs scored and slugging percentage (by a whopping .081 over Cincinnati). And just for good measure, the game was in a big time hitter's park in Arlington.
That four of the Rangers' five hits went for extra-bases—and three of those four accounted for their three RBIs—speaks to Pineda’s need to remain ahead in the count. Staying ahead allows him to mix in his diving slider off the plate as a chase pitch rather than in situations where he needs a strike.
Pineda’s final line—6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 1BB, 58/84 Strikes—show a young pitcher with promise and poise, but who must learn how to stay ahead in the count and ensure his entire arsenal remains in play. Continuing to develop his secondary pitches won't hurt either.
The future is bright.