Michael Pineda's performance in Wednesday night's 2-1 win over the Marlins was so flawless that even the seventh-inning home run he gave up to Christian Yelich might have helped the Yankees in the long run.
That's because, up to that point, Pineda had yet to allow a hit. With his pitch count reaching up toward 100, Joe Girardi soon would have to make the call: Let Pineda see this through and risk fatigue (and Girardi's own emotional turmoil, as Terry Collins still feels over Johan Santana's no-hitter) . . . or, more likely, take the ball away with Pineda only a few outs away from history.
The homer on Pineda's first pitch in the seventh answered that question easily enough. His overall performance -- 62/3 innings of one-hit ball, with nine strikeouts -- answered a bunch of other pressing questions.
Is his slider OK? (Yes, it was responsible for seven of his strikeouts.)
And can the Yankees count on him for a potential playoff run? (Sure, as long as he keeps the pitch-heavy no-hitters to an absolute minimum.)
Was his rough performance in his last outing the result of his skipping a start?
"It's hard to say,'' Girardi said before the game. "We're always going to think about that. Everyone wants an answer as to why something happens. There's been other days where he has been on regular rest and he hasn't had his slider. Could it have contributed to it? Absolutely. But I can't say 100 percent.''
The Yankees almost wasted Pineda's effort in the eighth. With one out and runners at the corners, Justin Wilson was relieved by Dellin Betances, who induced Dee Gordon to hit a one-out grounder to Garrett Jones. Jones threw home to try to get a sliding Adeiny Hechavarria and prevent the tying run. He originally was deemed safe, but a replay showed Brian McCann tagged his trailing leg before Hechavarria nicked the plate. Betances got Derek Dietrich to fly out to end the inning.
Betances got the five-out save, but got into trouble in the ninth, allowing a two-out single to Marcell Ozuna and a walk to Justin Bour before striking out Jeff Mathis.
The Yankees scored in the first inning. Chase Headley was nicked by a pitch with one out, moved to second on McCann's grounder to first and scored on Alex Rodriguez's single up the middle. A-Rod added a hit in the fifth and is three shy of 3,000.
Rodriguez is trying to become the 29th player and second Yankee, along with Derek Jeter, to get 3,000 hits.
They left the bases loaded against Jose Urena in the fourth but tacked on their second run in the fifth. With one out, Headley singled and went to second on Rodriguez's single. Jones walked to load the bases and Carlos Beltran lined a single to center to bring in Headley, but Marcell Ozuna's throw easily beat Rodriguez to the plate to end the inning.
The only early threat to Pineda's no-hitter came with two outs in the third. Didi Gregorius made a nice, backhand grab of Ichiro Suzuki's liner that looked destined for left-center.
Yelich walked with two outs in the fourth and Giancarlo Stanton worked the count full, but Pineda got him looking on an 89-mph slider that nicked the inside corner. He walked two and threw 100 pitches, 63 for strikes.