Mariners get back on track, win 5-2 over Twins
Rookie pitcher Michael Pineda silences an offense that actually looks worse than the Mariners' as Seattle wins 5-2 over Minnesota.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Minnesota @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT
This latest triumph for Mariners pitcher Michael Pineda didn't require much of a learning curve.
In fact, he could have thrown one at the Minnesota Twins and they wouldn't have hit it. If each new outing for Pineda is supposed to be another step, another test in an uphill climb to stardom, this 5-2 win on Monday night over the inept Twins was more like free shots at the dunk tank.
Pineda and his lethal fastball-slider combo were allowed to beat up on a defenseless, injury-depleted Twins lineup for seven innings and the result was predictable. He allowed just three singles over seven scoreless frames while breaking a sweat only once in helping his team snap a six-game losing skid.
"I felt pretty good," Pineda said with a smile.
So did most of the 14,859 fans at Safeco Field who witnessed the one-sided pounding laid on the defending American League Central champs by a 22-year-old rookie. Pineda didn't exactly conjure up images of Nolan Ryan or J.R. Richard, though his seven strikeouts against zero walks looked pretty good in his final line.
Instead, it was the ease with which Pineda kept retiring the side and the predictability of his end result that makes you wonder if he could have possibly gained anything from the experience. Except, of course, another win in a 5-2 season and an earned-run average lowered from 2.84 to 2.45.
Rookies aren't supposed to have it this easy. In the big-leagues, they are supposed to be fearful of having things come undone at a moment's notice.
Pineda seemed more annoyed than fearful when a two-out error by Luis Rodriguez in the sixth opened the door for a single by Jason Kubel and then a hit batsman that loaded the bases in a two-run game. But Pineda gathered himself, then got Michael Cuddyer to hit a ground ball that deflected off the pitcher's leg and right to Jack Wilson for a fielder's choice at second.
Inning over. Ballgame over.
Adam Kennedy and Carlos Peguero made sure of that in the bottom of the inning by connecting on back-to-back solo homers off Twins starter Scott Baker for a 4-0 lead. They were the first consecutive blasts by the Mariners since Aug. 16 in Baltimore when Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez did it — while Kennedy was still with the Washington Nationals and Peguero was in Class AA.
Peguero's shot was a screaming line drive that barely made it over the 326-foot sign in right field.
"When I hit the ball, I thought it was maybe foul, maybe fair, maybe a double," Peguero admitted.
Instead, it was one of the hardest-hit home runs the Mariners will see all year.
Pineda breezed through the seventh 1-2-3 after that, then was pulled in favor of reliever Aaron Laffey. Jamey Wright pitched the final two outs in ninth.
"(Pineda) works real fast out there and that's what you like to see, playing behind a pitcher," said Kennedy, who would add a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
The Twins finally scored a pair of unearned runs in the ninth after a throwing error by Chone Figgins on what could have been a game-ending double-play.
But make no mistake, this game was almost too easy for Pineda and his squad.
The Twins have lost nine in a row, sport the worst record in baseball and the lowest-scoring offense in the American League. They entered the game with two guys batting below .200, five of them below .230, star slugger Joe Mauer on the disabled list, Justin Morneau still shaking off the effects of a concussion and Delmon Young striking out just about every time he comes up.
So, no wonder Pineda seemed underwhelmed by the whole experience.
Asked about the Cuddyer grounder off his leg — about the only crucial moment he faced — and Pineda's response was to shrug and say: "It was easy."
He probably meant to say the ball didn't hit him all that hard. But he was still right because the whole thing really was easy. Too easy to really gain anything from it in the long run other than having a chance to hone his slider against some lefties who haven't connected with a whole lot this season.
"We talk about commanding the ballgame and that's ultimately what you want your starting pitcher to do," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "To control the ballgame. To make pitches. Set the tempo by his standards."
Pineda did all that and made it look easy.
There will be tougher tests ahead for Pineda as he breaks into the big leagues.
But for now, at least, Pineda and the Mariners got to have one night where everything they worked for didn't have to come the hard way.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.