I can see the future, and its name is Michael Pineda. Or rather, a terrorizing 1-2 punch featuring aces King Felix and “Prince Michael.”
Of course, it’s far too early to crown Pineda just yet, but his solid debut Tuesday was more than encouraging. In six innings of work, the rookie held the high-powered Rangers offense to just three runs on five hits in what amounted to a quality outing. He also walked one batter and struck out four.
The first strikeout came against the first batter he faced, All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler. Pineda dispatched Kinsler in just three pitches, the last of which was a nasty slider. After an Elvis Andrus groundout, he ended the inning by fanning 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton on three pitches.
Pineda ran into some trouble in the second inning when, after a Cruz walk, he gave up a triple to Mitch Moreland that scored Cruz. In his defense, the ball was poorly played by Michael Saunders, who climbed the outfield fence when the ball bounced off the wall.
Things started to unravel in the sixth inning as the Rangers offense could not be contained. Doubles by Hamilton and Michael Young resulted in two runs, widening the lead to 3-0 Texas.
The Mariners offense didn’t make things much easier for Pineda, not getting any runs on the scoreboard until the seventh inning. They were absolutely stymied by converted reliever Alex Ogando, who threw six shutout innings and allowed two hits.
Four singles in a row and an error earned the Mariners two runs to cut the lead to 3-2, and also loaded the bases with one out in the seventh.
But predictably, the M’s failed miserably in capitalizing on their few opportunities when Chone Figgins popped out softly and Milton Bradley flew out to end the inning.
Neftali Felix closed out the ninth to end the game, a game the M’s had a golden opportunity to take but failed to do so.
But the story of the night for Seattle was the 6'7" lefty from the Dominican Republic. His performance Tuesday night gave M’s fans a lot to hope for, and hope has been pretty scarce in the past couple of years.
The major league debut start usually goes pretty rough for any pitcher, even the great ones. But Pineda’s was outstanding; the three runs came against a team in the Rangers that had scored 32 runs and smacked 13 home runs in its first four games.
Pineda showed impressive command of his pitches, with a blazing fastball that topped at 97 mph and a nasty slider in the mid-80s. His only issue was finding himself in a few situations that forced hittable pitches, which the Rangers fully took advantage of.
But for now, Pineda is a 22-year-old prospect with plenty left ahead of him. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops at the major league level this season.
Tomorrow, the pitcher Pineda aspires to become, King Felix, goes against C.J. Wilson as the M’s hope to salvage a game in the series and head home at .500.