Phil Hughes walked off the mound after the first inning feeling more encouraged than worried. Sure, one run had scored on a double steal, but his fastball was humming in the mid-90s and he was able to spot it on three strikeout pitches.
“I thought my stuff was good,” he said. “I thought I made some good pitches to get out of that inning. After that, something just went wrong.”
Hughes got nine more outs. He allowed 11 more base runners. One was a home run, five were doubles and one was the triple that finally chased him from the game. Hughes had essentially lost everything. First he lost his fastball, then he lost the game.
“I tried to mix in some changeups. It wasn’t there,” Hughes said. “I tried to get my curveball over sometimes and I was bouncing them. The cutter was actually probably my best pitch today, and I tried to lean on that, and then that started flattening out and was over the plate. It is kind of a helpless feeling when you’re trying to at least mix it up a little bit and you just can’t execute what you want to do.”
This was the second day in a row that the Yankees starter got only nine outs. The bullpen was terrific in Texas — nine scoreless innings — but Hughes and CC Sabathia fell apart. Hughes said he eventually figured out that his arm angle was too low, but that was only half the battle. “It’s tough to first of all figure out what it is, and then try to make that adjustment,” he said.
The Yankees left Texas with a split on the road. It’s essentially a five-game series now, and the Yankees have home-field advantage. In the big picture, it wasn’t a bad trip, but it’s hard to look past those shaky starts, if only because they were so very unexpected.
“Our starters pitched extremely well and everyone was giddy about them the last series,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t ever get too involved in snapshot pictures because those can be dangerous. I believe in our guys, and I believe that they will pitch well as we continue forward here.”
• The clubhouse was, obviously, much more reserved than last night. But the same sort of calm that kept the Yankees in Game 1 kept them from panic after Game 2. “We faced two really good starting pitchers,” Mark Teixeira said. “They were dominant. For us to be able to split the way that those two guys pitched, you have to feel confident.”
• All seven relievers pitched during these two games. Joba Chamberlain allowed an inherited runner, but only after he struck out the first two batters he faced. All things considered, the bullpen was outstanding. They gave the Yankees a chance to come back in both games, but there was no rally this time. “We went in there to get outs,” Sergio Mitre said. “And for a second it almost looked like it was going to happen again.”
• The rally didn’t happen again. The Yankees stranded seven runners in the final four innings. Girardi really tried to spark a rally by pinch hitting last night’s game-winner, Marcus Thames, with two on in the sixth. Thames had a good, nine-pitch at-bat and felt like there were two good pitches to hit, including strike three. “Those are the ones you have to hit,” Thames said. “You can’t miss those.”
• Robinson Cano stranded his share of runners in the late innings, but he also hit his second homer in as many days.
• I never saw Jorge Posada speaking in the clubhouse and Girardi’s short postgame press conference never touched on the first-inning double steal. The only person I heard talk about it was Derek Jeter who said “yep” when asked if Posada was supposed to throw to second on that play. Ultimately, that’s not what cost the Yankees the game.
• Colby Lewis was very good tonight. Maybe not quite as sharp as C.J. Wilson, but he was good. “To me he didn’t miss any spots,” Teixeira said. “Backdoor curveball. Sliders down and in. Fastballs on the corners. Keeping the ball down. He pitched really well.”
• Why send Hughes back out for the fifth? “He was up in the zone,” Girardi said. “But he was still, you know, he was getting some outs for us, so we decided to stay with him. And then he gives off the lead-off double in the fifth, and we get Joba up. And he struggled today. There is no doubt about it and I expect him to better next time.”
• Any chance of Sabathia on short rest in Game 4? “I just came off the field five minutes ago, and I’m worried about Game 3,” Girardi said. “I don’t get too far ahead. So we’ll worry about Game 3, and if we worry about Game 4 before Game 3, we are going to be in trouble.”
Associated Press photos of Hughes, Cano and Logan