Commentary

Pineiro falters against Yankees

The accurate Angels pitcher fails to slow N.Y. the second time around

Updated: April 24, 2010, 9:19 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Joel Pineiro makes a pretty comfortable living throwing strikes these days. Nobody in baseball walks fewer hitters per nine innings than the veteran right-hander.

But when everybody knows you're going to attack the strike zone, you've got to expect a counter-attack sooner or later.

The New York Yankees had the fortune of facing the Los Angeles Angels' sinkerballer twice in a 10-day period. This time they were lying in wait. They took a more aggressive tact and pounded 11 hits off Pineiro in their 7-1 win at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

Just when Pineiro thought he was slipping out of trouble, it found him. The Yankees scored five of their six runs off him after there were two outs.

"Two-out runs were the dagger today," Pineiro said.

[+] EnlargeJoel Pineiro
Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIREJoel Pineiro had his first rough outing of the season after facing the Yankees for the second time in 10 days.

Until Saturday, Pineiro and Jered Weaver had been the only two members of the Angels' rotation who had found a measure of consistency from one start to the next. Now, the list is down to one. In the team's nine wins, the starters have a 2.03 ERA. In the team's 10 losses, they have an ERA of 7.59.

It's kind of a coin-flip thing. Heads, they're great. Tails, they're lousy.

As Pineiro pointed out, Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, 37, had to face the Angels' lineup after a quick turnaround, too, and he fared a tad better. The Angels looked mesmerized by the 16-year veteran. He struck out eight and didn't walk anyone. He actually managed to throw a slightly higher percentage of strikes (65.8 percent) than Pineiro did (64.3).

One difference: Pineiro's margin for error is minuscule, since he's heavily reliant on locating just one pitch. A sinker that's at a hitter's knee caps might be a double play. A sinker that's thigh-high might be a three-run double.

"They knew I was going to be around the plate and throwing strikes, but if I make my pitches down in the zone, hopefully they get ground balls at people instead of finding holes," Pineiro said.

Angels hitters seem to be having some trouble making adjustments in the early going. In two starts against them, Pettitte has given up one run and struck out 14 hitters in 14 innings. One offensive number that sticks in manager Mike Scioscia's mind is .319, the Angels' collective on-base percentage.

A season ago, the team made big strides in that category and saw a big uptick in production. With a lineup of hitters capable of mashing 15-30 home runs, the power component has also been a bit late in showing up this season. The Angels have hit 16 home runs in 19 games, putting them in the bottom half of the league.

"Hopefully, on the offensive side we start to drive the ball to our capabilities because that's one thing, I think, that's been missing right now," Scioscia said.

Depth chart

For the first time in nine years, the Angels have two catchers on the disabled list. If something were to happen to Mike Napoli, they'd be facing the prospect of playing 30-year-old rookie Ryan Budde or 22-year-old minor leaguer Hank Conger on a daily basis.

But if you think that's going to make Napoli play with any more caution, forget it. The Angels can't cover him in bubble wrap as he plays baseball's most punishing position.

"I'll go out there and play hard like I always play, be aggressive," Napoli said. "You can't worry about, 'Oh, I can't get hurt here.' You've got to go out there and play hard. Hard all the time."

Napoli showed his aggressive side on the bases in trying to go from first to third on Brandon Wood's single to left field in the third inning. Brett Gardner threw him out, after a nifty tag by Ramiro Pena, and the Angels never really mounted a rally after that.

Making the third out at third base is typically viewed as a no-no in baseball, but the Angels tend to live and die with daring on the bases. Scioscia said he had "absolutely" no problem with Napoli's running, other than a slight hesitation rounding second.

Quote of the day

"He's taking a sip of the fountain of youth or something." -- Scioscia on Pettitte (3-0, 1.29 ERA).

Looking ahead

Scott Kazmir (1-1, 7.45 ERA) tinkered with his mechanics in his last start and pitched well, earning his first home win as an Angel over the Detroit Tigers. Still, Kazmir threw only three sliders in that game and has been reduced to a two-pitch pitcher. He'll find it difficult to return to his glory days with such a reduced arsenal.

The Angels face Javier Vazquez (1-2, 8.27), who picked up his first win Tuesday at Oakland. Vazquez figures to fare better on the road this year. He was roundly booed in his start at Yankee Stadium against the Angels. New York fans still haven't forgotten the grand slam he gave up to Johnny Damon in the 2004 ALCS.

Vazquez called the booing "unfair."

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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