It was just Michael Pineda's eighth major league start Monday, but the story continues to be the same. Lots of strikes equals lots of success.
Pineda devoured the Twins during the Mariners' 5-2 win in front of a sparse gathering at Safeco Field, throwing seven shutout innings. He threw a first-pitch strike to the first three batters he faced. That's become commonplace for Pineda, who typically tries to get ahead with his heavy fastball.
The scouting report on Twins slugger Justin Morneau was to do the opposite. Pineda started Morneau with sliders in his first two at-bats. Having Morneau on the ropes at 0-2 in the second at-bat, Pineda tried to elevate a fastball to dispose of Morneau. The Minnesota designated hitter smacked the 96 mph pitch for a single to left. Pineda threw his hand up, irritated he didn't elevate the pitch enough and that Morneau was skilled enough to handle it as it was.
Just 22 years old, Pineda sometimes looks it on the mound. He's demonstrative in a way that shows his age.
But his pitch command is not what would be expected from such a young pitcher. He threw 99 pitches Monday night, 70 for strikes.
Pineda, who is 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, has been a monster to open the year. After fanning seven Twins, he leads American League rookies with 52 strikeouts. He leads the Mariners in ERA (2.45) and wins (five) -- and this on a team that possesses Felix Hernandez, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
With Pineda and Hernandez pitching on consecutive nights, the Mariners finally have something positive to point to.
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