By Howie Kussoy
Again, Michael Pineda started strong. But again, the fall never felt far.
Opening the second half with the same maddening inconsistency that has defined much of his third season with the Yankees, Pineda retired the first eight batters he faced Friday night, but then steered back into the familiar script, allowing three home runs to give the Red Sox a 5-3 win in The Bronx.
Pineda (3-9), who now has a 5.56 ERA, has gone six straight starts without a win, most recently recording a victory on June 7 against the AL West-worst Angels.
He lasted five-plus innings and allowed five runs, five hits and one walk, while striking out six in his shortest start since May 28.
Girardi said Pineda would remain in the starting rotation, but the manager’s vote had little to do with his confidence in the right-hander.
“It’s who we have, so he has to get it done,” Girardi said.
After running up an unsightly 6.92 ERA through the first two months of the season, the 27-year-old began to turn his season around in June, posting a 2.75 ERA.
But for all of Pineda’s talent and hit-and-miss stuff, the icebergs always seem present.
In his final start of the first half, Pineda retired the first five hitters he faced before allowing four second-inning runs in a loss to the White Sox. Friday, he was even sharper to start, striking out four of Boston’s first eight hitters, including the first two batters of the third inning.
Then came the crash.
Working against nine-hitter Ryan Hanigan — who entered the game with a .189 batting average and no home runs — Pineda allowed the game’s first run on a solo homer to left.
“I tried to throw my fastball in a good location and I threw it right in the middle,” Pineda said. “It happens when you’re working behind the count.”
Pineda was perfect in the fourth inning, but he created trouble by walking Jackie Bradley Jr. to open the fifth, allowing a two-run shot well into the bleachers in right field to Travis Shaw in the next at-bat. In the sixth, the leadoff hitter reached base again — a Dustin Pedroia single — and scored one batter later, with Xander Bogaerts’ homer putting Boston up 5-0.
It was the third time this season Pineda has allowed at least three home runs in a game, but the first time he allowed multiple home runs since April 24. In two previous starts against Boston this season, Pineda had given up a total of four runs and one home run.
“It comes down to location” Girardi said. “[He’s] not executing the way he needs to execute. He has to make better pitches.”