This game was all about the Yankees starter, but I couldn’t pass up that picture of Francisco Cervelli and Mariano Rivera. How great is that?
Phil Hughes just keeps getting better. He’s had that one slight hiccup in Baltimore — and even there he managed to limit the damage — but the guy has otherwise been as good as any pitcher in the American League. And I’m not just saying that, the numbers back it up. His 1.38 ERA is the lowest in the league. He was the first Yankees starter to reach five wins and he leads the team with 39 strikeouts.
“I think we saw him grow up a lot last year and it’s carried over into this year,” Joe Girardi said. “None of our pitchers are going to be perfect, but this kid has made some huge strides for us. We envisioned him being a very good starter coming out of spring training and he’s probably gone beyond that.”
Tonight, Hughes was over 40 pitches through two innings, but he still lasted seven because he went to his curveball and found it to be as good as ever. With the hook, he got some outs earlier in the count and was able to pitch out some of some big-time trouble in the second and fourth innings.
What stood out to me — and has stood out all year — is his ability to overwhelm hitters with his fastball. He’s got some good velocity on the pitch, sitting at 93-94 mph, but it seems more overpowering than that. He’s able to spot it when he needs to, and he’s able to blow it by hitters when the situation calls for it.
“(The fastball’s) been great,” Hughes said. “Obviously last year helped a lot with that, just having that confidence out of the bullpen and being aggressive with it, not being afraid to miss over the plate. A couple of times tonight, there was a 2-0 fastball to Johnny, I just tried to throw it right down the middle and I think I broke his bat or something. Those help, every time you do that, it helps.”
Here’s Hughes talking about his latest masterpiece.
• Hilarious line from Mariano Rivera. Someone jokingly asked if he remembered how to get to the mound after not pitching since April 30. Rivera didn’t hesitate. “I’ve got a little map,” he said.
• Hilarious line from George King after we finished talking to the closer. “See ya in June,” he said. Mo liked that one.
• A lot of moves lately, and Girardi didn’t rule out making another one tomorrow, but it didn’t seem as set in stone as today’s move. “We’ll see, talk to Cash,” Girardi said. “Pitching, we’re in pretty good shape.”
• What more can be said about Francisco Cervelli? “He’s played as well as he can play,” Girardi said. “In big situations he’s gotten big hits for us. Cervi has always been a guy that we knew could perform at a very high level defensively but hadn’t had a lot of at-bats in the minor leagues because of some strange injuries. He’s been so good for us offensively that he’s been a complete player.”
• That’s a pretty cool shot of Joba Chamberlain’s great play in the eighth inning. Too bad he didn’t get the out.
• Heavy rain in the forecast for tomorrow. Not sure they’ll get this one in, but I’d really, really like to catch my flight tomorrow night!
Associated Press photos.