Ahead in the count 0-2, Phil Hughes threw the two pitches that changed everything about today’s game.
In the first inning he threw a fastball to Vernon Wells. Hughes wanted it away, but it ran back over the plate and Wells hit it for a two-run home run. “That’s kind of the worst pitch you can make,” Hughes said.
In the third inning, Hughes threw a cutter up to Aaron Hill. It didn’t do much, and certainly didn’t get out of the zone, and Hill hit it for another two-run home run. “I was rushing. I was trying to slide step and my arm just didn’t catch up, and it spun over the plate,” Hughes said.
Afterward, both Hughes and Joe Girardi said the problem with those pitches was location, and that’s impossible to deny, but Hughes also admitted that he’s leaned heavily on his fastball and cutter this season. He said he might have been willing to go offspeed in those situations had he been more confident in his curveball or changeup.
“That’s kind of been the Achilles heel for me a little bit this year,” he said. “I do like to throw my fastball, and I feel like I have a good fastball, (but) sometimes guys get geared up for it too much when you’re constantly the same speed. Even my cutter isn’t that much of a speed differential. Getting my curveball going to where it needs to be and incorporating my changeup is a big part of my game. I’m certainly not going to throw those pitches an outrageous amount, but just getting them to where they’re consistent and I can go to them when I need to, that would be a big step for me.”
Hughes said he actually had a good changeup today. He couldn’t remember throwing it more in any start this season. His curveball got better, but after hanging one for a double in the first inning, he was hesitant to go back to it against Wells. Overall, Hughes said, his stuff was much better today than in his previous two starts, he just wanted a few pitches back.
“I had a couple of bad pitches, three or four mistakes,” Hughes said. “If I can just limit that and make my pitch, I feel like today could have gone a lot different.”
Win or lose, Hughes is terrific to talk to after his starts. He’s one of the best at assessing his own performance, what he’s done right, what he’s done wrong and what he needs to improve. Today was a prime example.
• Both Hughes and Girardi once again said fatigue doesn’t seem to be an issue with Hughes’ recent struggles. “That’s the million-dollar question that I’m probably going to be asked for a while,” Girardi said. “I thought his velocity was better than it has been the last couple of starts, which makes me think he feels pretty good. If he makes a couple of 0-2 pitches, he pitches pretty well.”
• Girardi on Hughes: “At times he can become one speed. We’ve seen that where it’s mostly fastball-cutter. Today he threw his curveball and changeup. Today he just made mistakes. He got ahead, and then he made a couple of mistakes, and that’s what hurt him.”
• In his first game back from a calf injury, Rodriguez was tested on an infield single. “It felt pretty good,” he said. “Definitely a sigh of relief.”
• Hughes had allowed just two 0-2 home runs in his career before today.
• Greg Golson made his third career start and got his first extra-base hit
• Ramiro Pena has a career-high seven-game hitting streak. He has a hit in 10 of his past 13 starts, batting .310 in those games.
• Brett Gardner has now walked in 10 straight games in which he has a plate appearance. According to Elias, that’s the longest streak in the majors since Nick Johnson did it in 13 games straight back in 2009. Elias also says it’s the longest streak for Yankee since Jorge Posada had a 13-game streak in 2004.
• This was the second outing in a row in which Jonathan Albaladejo has hit the first batter he faced.
• Heads up in Scranton: Colin Curtis was just pulled in the middle of an inning. That could be for a call-up to give the Yankees another outfielder.
• One more reminder about our daily online Yankees photo gallery.
Associated Press photos of Hughes and Rodriguez.