More good than bad came out of Phil Hughes last night.
“It definitely could have been worse, but the only goal you have here is to win,” he said. “On a positive note, I feel like my stuff was good and I made some pretty good pitches for the most part, so I can carry that over to my next one.”
There will be a next one, and it will almost certainly come against this same Tampa Bay lineup. For a while last night Hughes looked as crisp as he’d looked all season, but the home run pitches brought back old concerns about finishing hitters and finishing innings.
“I think that’s all part of the learning process, learning to close out innings,” Joe Girardi said. “… He’ll bounce back. It’s tough. It’s an important game and he pitched extremely well, and you make a few mistakes and get beat. We understand that’s part of the game, and I liked the way he pitched.”
The past two times Hughes pitched on extended rest, he struggled to regain his form. He skipped a start in late June, pitched on nine-days rest and allowed seven runs to the weak-hitting Mariners. The all-star break left him with 10 days off between starts, and in his first game back he allowed nine hits and six runs.
This time, the Yankees let Hughes pitch one inning out of the bullpen between starts. The hope was that live hitters would keep him sharp during his time off. It seemed to work. On nine-days rest, Hughes was perfect through four innings, and he was two pitches away from a great outing.
“I threw my fastball or strikes early,” he said. “Got my breaking ball over when I needed it. Threw probably more changeups than I thrown this year. I was kind of just pitching. They were swinging early and I was able to kind of get through those first few innings pretty easily.”
Here’s Hughes after last night’s game.