Clay Buchholz was good but he wasn’t as good as Yankees starter Michael Pineda who looked like the big time pitcher the Yankees hoped he would turn out to be when the acquired him from the Mariners in 2011.
Pineda — working with a devastating sinker — held the Red Sox hitless into the fifth inning and would leave after six innings, having given up just four hits and one run, a home run by Daniel Nava. Pineda walked two, struck out seven, and lit the internet on fire when images of a glossy brown substance on his pitching hand that appeared to be pine tar was shown close-up on the NESN game broadcast.
“It’s dirt,” Pineda said. “Between the innings, I’m sweating too much [on] my hand, I’m putting dirt, I’m grasping the dirt… I’m not using pine tar.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn’t touch the subject after the game.
“There’s not much for me to speak on concerning that,” Girardi said.
“I became aware of it in the fourth inning, through the video that some had seen,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “And then when he came back out for the fifth inning, it looked based on where it was told to me it was located, it looked like the palm of his right hand was clean so that’s the extent of it.”
Farrell was asked if he had notified the umpiring crew of the Pineda concerns.
“By the time I was made aware of it, it was after the fourth,” Farrell said. “And then it was pretty clear in looking at it closely from the dugout, that his palm was clean… a foreign substance is illegal, but the time I was made aware of it, it wasn’t there.”
The umpiring crew reiterated Farrell’s comments.
“The Red Sox didn’t bring it to our attention, so there’s nothing we can do about it,” umpire crew chief Brian O’Nora said. “If they bring it to our attention, then you’ve got to do something.”
But it was the Red Sox defense that allowed the Yankees to open the scoring during Game 1 in the Bronx. Third baseman Jonathan Herrera could not handle a spinning ground ball off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury to start the fourth inning. Carlos Beltran followed by busting a drive through the shift between first and second. Yankees catcher Brian McCann then followed with a line single just inside the first base line to score Ellsbury with the first run of the game. The Sox turned a 6-4-3 double play to slow down the New York attack, but Beltran scored on the DP to make it 2-0.
The immortal Dean Anna homerd to right in the fifth and Ellsbury drove in Derek Jeter, who doubled, to make it 4-0.
The struggling Daniel Nava homered to get the Red Sox on the board in the seventh inning but that was all the offense the Red Sox could muster. Nava also came up with the defensive play of the night when he ran down a Yangervis Solarte drive, laying out to make a magnificent diving catch in the third.
The Red Sox defense was sharp before the critical Herrera error when Jackie Bradley Jr. made a terriofic running catch to end the top of the first after Dustin Pedroia dove to snag a grounder off the bat of Ellsbury a play earlier.
Clay Buchholz was much sharper than he was when he unraveled against the Brewers on Saturday. He would go six inning, giving up seven hits, six strikeouts, no walks, four runs, but just two runs earned.
“I felt a lot better,” Buchholz said in comparison to Saturday. “I felt, just in the last five days, in arm strength and everything, it got a lot better in a five day span which usually doesn’t happen that quick but I felt a lot more comfortable with each pitch out there tonight and gotta minimize damage a little bit more there in a couple of spots but other than that I feel like I threw the ball pretty well.”
Craig Breslow made his 2014 debut, pitching a perfect inning in relief of Buchholz.
But the focus on Twitter was all about Pineda and the comments of NESN broadcastrers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy.
“There’s that substance, that absolutely looks like pine tar,” Orsillo said.
“Yeah, that’s not legal,” Remy followed.
Later in the at-bat, NESN focused on Pineda’s right hand again. “My lord, there’s a lot of gunk on there,” Remy said. Orsillo agreed.
“A lot of pitchers will tell you they do a lot of different things, but it’s not usually as obvious as that,” Orsillo would add.
“To me it was just outrageous how much it was showing,” NESN analyst and former Red Sox hurler Dennis Eckersley said after the game.
Steve Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stevesilva