But manager Joe Girardi took the ball out of his hands.
Through seven spectacular innings, Pineda struck out sixteen out of a possible twenty-one Baltimore Orioles. Oh, and without a walk.
Pineda would have had six more outs to get the five strikeouts necessary to set a new all-time record for punch-outs in a game. Two more would have tied him with Ron Guidry for the team record of eighteen, set on a steamy Friday night in the Bronx back in 1978. That game is still played over and over again on the YES network all these years later, which shows how fans still cherish that feat.
What has become of the game of baseball when, with a pitch count of 111, a pitcher doesn't get the chance to achieve baseball immortality?
After the game, Girardi praised Pineda for his effort--as he should have--but then added how the seven innings helped relieve an overworked bullpen.
They had to go two more innings to close out the game.
In today's game, anything less than three innings of relief work is practically seen as a slow night out in the bullpen.
You want to speed up games? Let a starter with the command Pineda had today finish what he started.
Could you imagine what Guidry--much less catcher Thurman Munson--would have said to Billy Martin had he taken out Gator after seven innings with sixteen strikeouts? They would have had to wrestle the ball from Guidry's hands.
The coddling of pitchers has gone too far. And it's doing nothing to slow down the cases of Tommy John surgery. In fact, it's contributing to them. Pitchers, when needed to, aren't as capable as they once were to go the distance. They hardly run anymore, keeping their legs weak and putting more strain on their arms.
Thirty years from now, the YES network, or whoever else might be covering Yankee games in 2045, would have been replaying the events from today's game in the same way Guidry's performance is today nearly forty years later.
But that won't happen. Today will go down in the books as a great effort by a very good young pitcher, but nothing more.
What a shame.