Phil Hughes wasn’t great this afternoon, but he certainly kept his team in the game. Seven runs were charged to the bullpen, but on a perfect day only one of those would have crossed the plate. The Yankees scored just two runs, but there’s something to be said for facing Felix Hernandez.
All day it seemed that every Yankees success came with some failure, and every failure came with some success.
“Two runs is a decent outing,” Hughes said. “But it wasn’t good enough.”
Joe Girardi pointed to the seventh inning — when Robinson Cano botched a play and Curtis Granderon let a triple glance of his glove — as the turning point. “We gave them too many outs that inning,” he said. “That was the difference in the ballgame. It really changed the complexion of the game.”
That’s a fair point. Boone Logan faced four batters and let three of them reach, but the three lefties he faced each produced results that very easily could have resulted in an out. The two runs charged to Hector Noesi in the ninth were earned only because scorers won’t charge an error on a ball lost in the sun.
In the big picture, this game was about Hughes, who was much better than last time — “better isn’t really saying all that much compared to last outing,” he admitted — but still allowed nine hits to the worst-hitting team in baseball. He only walked one, and most of the hits were singles, but obviously this wasn’t a perfect outing.
“I felt like I really executed pitches better early in the count and not as good late, so that’s something that needs to change,” Hughes said. “I’d rather be able to execute those pitches when I need them with two strikes.”
Girardi said Hughes fastball command was much better than last time, and his curveball was more like the one Hughes showed in Toronto. Hughes wasn’t happy with the hits, but he felt like he made some good pitches in key spots.
“I think he can be sharper,” Girardi said. “His command can get better and his curveball can even get better. All of his pitches. It’s been kind of a strange year for him, but two out of his last three starts have been pretty good… We want to try to get back to who he was last year. If he’s going to give up two runs in six innings, I’ll sign up for that. I think we’re going to win a lot of games if a starting pitcher does that. Two out of his last three starts have been pretty good. The one (in between) was not. We just need him to be himself.”
• Hughes said he never thought about the fact he was facing at team that had lost 17 in a row, but he didn’t like being the guy they finally beat. “It wasn’t even a thought,” he said. “I was just trying to go up there and pitch. I never really thought about that. I knew we were going up against a really good pitcher, who’s pitched really well here. He usually gives us trouble. I can’t remember the last time we’ve gotten him good. So I knew I was going to have to be good today.”
• Hughes on his curveball: “It was off and on. I threw some decent ones. A couple of times I threw some really good ones early in the count and then was frustrated with myself when I threw some poor ones later in the count, which seems like a common theme the last few outings, with not being able to make as good a pitch late when I need it. Overall, I’d say t was so-so.”
• Granderson said he simply lost the ninth-inning double in the sun. The seventh-inning triple was a little more complicated because Granderson said he always had a good read on it, it was just a matter of getting to it. Ultimately, it glanced off his glove in deep center field. “I knew it was definitely over my head to begin with,” Granderson said. “… I just wasn’t able to go ahead and get that extra inch on it.”
• The seventh inning really opened up after Robinson Cano threw the ball away trying to start a tough double play. “Robbie was trying to get two, and that’s a situation where you probably just take the one out,” Girardi said. “That’s going to happen. Robbie’s very talented and there are some special things he can do, but you probably need to get one out there.”
• Girardi took exception to the notion that the bullpen struggled today. “I didn’t think the bullpen really got hit hard today,” he said. “After we gave them five outs in the one inning, yeah, we gave up a hard-hit bal, but I thought the bullpen did a pretty good job. The bullpen probably should have escaped with one run in three innings; I’ll take that all the time.”
• Girardi said he was wrong when he said this morning that Alex Rodriguez’s next step would be to join the big league team for baseball drills. Rodriguez will report to Tampa next week and begin his baseball rehab there.
• This was the Yankees fifth loss in their past 22 games at home dating back to June 10. They are 6-5 this season in games when they have a chance to finish off a sweep.
• The Yankees have now lost their past four one-run games, and they’re 12-16 in one-run games this season.
• Brett Gardner has now been successful in 18 consecutive stolen base attempts. The Yankees have been caught in just three of their past 43 attempts.
• The Yankees have twice in franchise history faced a team with a 17-game losing streak, and the Yankees lost each time. They also lost to the Red Sox to snap a 17-game losing streak in 1926.
• A final word from Girardi about being the team that the Mariners finally beat after losing 17 in a row: “When I look back 20 years from now, I’m probably not going to remember. They were going to win a game at some point, I really believe that. We didn’t play well today, and that’s why we got beat.”
Associated Press photos