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Michael Pineda maturing as undisputed ace

TORONTO -- Greatness is often achieved by grinding. When you add up a Cy Young season at the end of the year, the numbers come together because of nights when you don't have your best stuff and you still put up eight zeroes on the board.

That's what Michael Pineda, the clear ace of the Yankees' staff, did on Tuesday. He pitched the first few innings without his best slider, but the Blue Jays could not score on him as they hit some balls hard, even putting runners on second and third in the third with cleanup man Edwin Encarnacion up. Pineda got him to fly out.

Pineda toughed through his eight scoreless innings, allowing five hits, striking out six and walking a batter. His reward is his ace stats. The man, who may give Matt Harvey a run for his money as the best pitcher in New York, is now 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA.

"The times that you go out during the course of the year and you have your ace stuff is probably only 10 times," manager Joe Girardi said after the 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. "The other 10, you have to find it. The last 10, you just have to battle. I think it was one of the second 10, where he had to find it. It took him a while."

What can get lost because of his power is Pineda's precision. When he walked a batter in the third inning, it was the first free pass he had ceded in 20 innings. He has only walked three batters in 39 1/3 innings.

This gives Brian McCann, known as a master game-caller, three options on each pitch, no matter the count. While McCann knows that Pineda can consistently fire his fastball, slider and change for strikes, hitters don't know what is coming.

"He pounds the zone with three pitches and he knows exactly where they are going," McCann said. "You can throw the 3-1 sliders. You can do a lot more when you pound the zone. It is impressive with the stuff that he has to have the command that he has."

That is why he is the best pitcher on the Yankees and very well could be if Masahiro Tanaka is healthy or not. Pineda is so talented that he was down a pitch, the slider, the first few innings, but Toronto couldn't score.

That's how pretty good starters mature into aces.

"[That's] a big-time pitcher," said Jacoby Ellsbury. "If you don't have one of your pitches, it is a game of adjustments, not only from the offensive side, but from the pitcher's side. If you can go in there knowing one pitch isn't working for you and find a way to get outs, it is pretty impressive."

Pineda grinded on Tuesday, which is largely why the first-place Yankees are now 17-10.

"He is a top of the rotation starter on any staff," McCann said.