BOSTON -- What happens when a pitcher tries to make a farce of the rule (8.02 in the MLB book) that stipulates that it is illegal to have a foreign substance on one’s person, not to mention illegal to apply said substance to the ball?
The result: With Pineda ejected in the second inning and facing a suspension, the Red Sox coasted behind John Lackey to a 5-1 win before a crowd of 37,015 in a wind-blown Fenway Park, where the Pesky Pole swayed in the strong breeze (24 mph at game time, later gusting even higher).
A lift from Lackey: Lackey, lit up by the Orioles in his last start for six runs on 10 hits and four walks, was immense Thursday, striking out 11, one short of his career high, and walking none in eight innings. It was the 16th 10-K game of his career, and the seventh time in which he has had a 10-K, no-walk game. The Yankees scored their only run off Lackey in the sixth on a double by Carlos Beltran and a sacrifice fly by Alfonso Soriano.
That ended a horrid turn through the Sox rotation, in which starters posted an 8.03 ERA and allowed 43 hits and 15 walks in 24 2/3 innings over five starts.
The Pineda contretemps: Act I took place April 10 in New York, where TV cameras showed the palm of Pineda’s hand smeared with a sticky brown substance that looked suspiciously like pine tar. Pineda claimed afterward it was dirt mixed with sweat. Red Sox manager John Farrell, meanwhile, said that by the time he became aware of it, Pineda had wiped off his hand. Farrell said it’s not uncommon for a pitcher to use something to improve his grip, but usually they’re not as “blatant” as Pineda was.
Would anything happen the next time Pineda faced the Sox?
“We’ll see how the game unfolds," said Farrell, who before Wednesday's game added, "I would expect if [a substance] is used, it's more discreet than the last time."
Fast-forward to Act II on Wednesday night in Fenway Park, when cameras again detected something smeared all over Pineda’s neck, that something suspiciously resembling pine tar. This time, Farrell did not hesitate. Alerted by someone in the Sox clubhouse -- a former Columbia University pitcher named Harrison Slutsky, an assistant advance scout, recently was assigned the task of alerting Farrell to review challenges at home games -- Farrell emerged from the dugout with two outs in the Sox's second and Grady Sizemore at the plate with a 1-and-2 count.
Farrell asked plate umpire Gerry Davis to inspect Pineda. Davis, the umpiring crew chief, approached Pineda -- as the Yankees infielders surrounded the pitcher on the mound and Farrell stood expectantly near the first-base line -- removed his black glove, checked Pineda’s pitching hand and examined the ball. Then he extended a meaty index finger, swabbed a spot a few inches under Pineda’s right ear, then rubbed his thumb and index finger together.
One touch is all it took. Davis immediately signaled that Pineda had been ejected. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not dispute the decision, but he did turn an ESPN camera that was trying to show the audience at home Pineda on the runway from the dugout to the visitors’ clubhouse.
With Pineda, who had given up two runs in the first inning, out of the way, the Sox tacked on two more runs in the third, on Mike Napoli’s RBI double and a wild pitch by David Phelps, and another in the eighth. His ouster also left Girardi with a bunch of tired arms to choose from for Thursday night’s series finale.
And while the rest of the game proceeded without incident, there’s an inevitability that the Yankees will respond in some fashion down the line. In other words, stay tuned for Act III.
An early jump: The Sox scored multiple runs in the first inning for the first time this season when they scored twice against Pineda. Grady Sizemore broke an 0-for-13 stretch with a triple and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s single. Pedroia came around on singles by Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski, whose was credited with a hit when his hopper skipped through the legs of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
Jeter’s throwing error opened the way to two more runs in the third.
Koji time: In a non-save situation, Koji Uehara gave up a leadoff single to Soriano, then struck out the final three Yankees in succession.