When Eric Chavez chopped that ball up the middle in the eighth inning tonight, it hit off Phil Hughes’ left forearm. His arm was angled in such a way that Hughes thought the ball must have popped up into the air. It wasn’t until he looked toward third and saw Alex Rodriguez pointing that he finally realized the ball was in front of the mound.
“It seemed like I was looking for the ball for about eight minutes,” Hughes said.
Joe Girardi said Hughes was “as good as it gets” and Jorge Posada said it reminded him of how dominant Hughes was in that near no-hitter against Texas back in 2007. “It tells you what kind of stuff he’s got,” Posada said. “It tells you that when he’s on, he has swing-and-miss type stuff.”
As for Hughes, he was just happy to have put on a show in front of his parents, who drove up from Orange County to watch him start a major league game for only the third time. Hughes said he couldn’t help sitting on the bench wondering what would have happened had he found the ball sooner — “I guess you’ve got to fantasize about it sometimes because it’s probably not going to happen again,” he said — but milestone or not, it was a heck of a performance from a 23-year-old.
“Obviously you’re trying to go out there and throw a perfect game every time, but that’s not going to happen,” Hughes said. “I’ll take 28 or 30 more of these if I can.”
• Hughes did not throw a single changeup. “Sometimes you’re just going to have such good stuff that maybe you stray away from a certain pitch,” Hughes said. “Tonight was one of those nights. After I kept rolling and rolling, I didn’t want to get beat on the changeup.”
• Hughes said his fastball command was “the best it’s ever been.”
• When he got the first out of the seventh inning, Hughes said his mind immediately jumped to his near no-hitter in Texas, when he had to leave after 6.1 hitless innings because of a hamstring injury. “After I got that first out in the seventh I was just hoping I didn’t go down with something,” he said. “That was all I was thinking about.”
• Mostly four-seamers and cutters tonight. Posada said there, at most, 10 curveballs and Hughes simply didn’t need the changeup. He was throwing his cutter to lefties and righties, even backdooring a few of them.
• Both Girardi and Posada raved about Brett Gardner’s two-out, RBI single in the ninth, pushing a one-run lead to a two-run lead. Gardner took the ball to left field, and he’s seemed pretty comfortable doing that early in the season. “That’s a huge hit,” Girardi said. “That extra run in s a huge hit for us.”
• After using Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera the past two nights, Girardi said he doesn’t expect to have either available tomorrow. “Other guys have to step up if we need them,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira said he couldn’t remember anything about Hughes near no-hitter against Texas, which happened while Teixeira was with the Rangers. He also said he was screaming from first base, “It’s in front of you!” when Chavez hit that ball up the middle. “Nothing we could do,” Teixeira said. “If it doesn’t hit Phil, it’s up the middle for a hit anyway. It wasn’t a cheap one, at least.”
Those are Associated Press photos. The bottom one is of Curtis Granderson after he scored the insurance run in the ninth.