Looking for his 10th win of the season – and the first of August – Michael Pineda retired the first nine batters he faced tonight, something the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox took note of.
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tried an entirely different approach in the fourth inning, and it wound up being the difference for Chicago, as the Sox rode John Danks pitching to a 3-0 victory.
“The first time through the lineup, Chicago saw what Michael was doing and they couldn’t get a base runner,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “That’s why they played it differently in the fourth inning.”
In that fourth, Juan Pierre chopped a bunt over the mound for an infield single and manager Ozzie Guillen ordered a hit-and-run that Alejandro De Aza executed perfectly to put runners at first and third base. Guillen then sent De Aza, and Paul Konerko served a soft single into left field for a 1-0 lead.
A fly ball made it 2-0 That was all Pineda allowed in six solid innings. It was enough to cost him any chance at a 10th win he’s been tracking since July 30.
“Michael pitched really well, too. He had a live arm, was getting his breaking pitch over. He was doing what we want him to do,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Over the course of 30 starts or so, you’re going to have nights when you have to work for it, adjust inning to inning, pitch to pitch. Michael has done that all season.”
Still, at the All-Star break, the 22-year-old right-hander was 8-6 with a 3.03 earned run average. Since then, he’s 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA and four no-decisions.
Is something wrong with the big fella?
“You’ve heard us preach all season, the job of every starting pitcher each time out is to give this team the chance to win,” Willis said. “Since the All-Star break, Pineda has done that and tonight was another example.
“It’s tough in the second half of a season, when teams are facing you for the second, third time, and Michael has been sitting on nine wins for awhile now. Ten is a big number – double figure wins – and he hasn’t had the best of luck. He left his last game with a lead we didn’t hold.”
The Mariners managed three hits off Danks, who went the distance. Pineda asked to go back out for the seventh inning after throwing 101 pitches. No dice.
“I told him, ‘If this were May or June, maybe. If this were next year at this time, maybe,” Willis said. “But he only worked 139 innings last year and he’s at 153 innings now. We’re not going to risk anything for one more inning.”
Pineda tried to take it in stride.
“I worked inside with my fastball and kept my slider down and in,” he said. “I threw a lot of good changeups. I know it’s a long season, and I work hard every day to be strong for the final month. That one inning, they got two. That was enough.”