It was earlier this month that Phil Hughes seemed to be pitching for his spot in the rotation and delivered that six-inning, rain-shortened shutout in Chicago. That was less than three weeks ago, and Hughes is no longer looking like an odd man out. Right now he looks like the Yankees No. 2 starter.
“It’s not even my focus, the playoffs or the next rotation around and who’s going to be the guy left out,” Hughes said. “It’s not really anything I think about. I’m happy with the way the last few starts have gone, and that’s really all I think about, and the next one I get.”
In his past three starts, beginning in Chicago, Hughes has a 1.37 ERA, allowing nine hits in 19.2 innings. Tonight he walked more than he struck out — fourth time he’s done that this season — but in his past four starts he has 15 strikeouts and five walks.
“This was definitely an eye-opener for me,” Russell Martin said. “Just being back there and hitting spots like he was and having confidence. He shook me off a couple of times and wanted to go in with the fastball in and he executed a pitch about eight, nine times out of 10. Definitely pretty impressive.”
Joe Girardi’s been talking a lot about Hughes’ confidence lately, but he seems most impressed by Hughes confidence in his secondary pitches. Martin said Hughes’ curveball was only “okay” tonight, but Hughes was still mixing plenty of offspeed pitches all night. He’s started throwing the changeup a lot more, and the cutter’s becoming a weapon again (though not as overused as it’s been at some points in the past).
“That’s the game plan,” Hughes said. “Moving my fastball in and out, changeups when I feel like I need to, cutters when I need to, and curveballs in the right situations. It just seems like we’re picking the right pitch at the right time right now. Russ and I have been on the same page for the most part, and it makes it fun to do that when you and your catcher are seeing eye-to-eye like that.”
The Yankees still have rotation questions to answer — and they still have more than a month to play — but Hughes is making his case. He was hurt, then he was rehabbing, then he was getting himself back into a rhythm at this level. Now he’s showing how good he can be.
“We think all our guys can help,” Girardi said. “We’re just going to let this all play out, continue to try to win ballgames and win series. We have a long ways to go before we get to the playoffs, but I’m very pleased with the way he’s throwing the bal and the way a lot of our guys are throwing the ball.”
• Mark Teixeira reached 1,000 career RBI with his two-run double in the ninth. “You almost can’t believe it,” Teixeira said. “I’ve always been someone that’s just played every game and every year. It’s a grind, and it’s never easy. When you reach something like 1,000 RBI in only nine years, you look at yourself and say, ‘Okay, I’m doing all right.’ Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep working hard and hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
• Russell Martin had his third multi-homer game of the season. He had one before this year. He’s now homered three times in his past two games after hitting two home runs in his previous 34 games. “I just kind of simplified my approach,” Martin said. “Just going up there and just swinging the bat hard and trying to see the ball. See the ball, hit the ball. And that’s really all I’ve been doing. I’ve been working with K-Long a lot in the cage, and he’s a confidence booster. You spend a lot of time with him and he just makes you feel good about yourself. I think that’s the main thing.”
• Hughes was asked if he was happier with Martin’s work at the plate or behind the plate. “I’ll go with the two homers,” Hughes said. “It’s nice to have that run support. He’s automatic when it comes to calling a good game back there. To see him break out like that is pretty exciting.”
• Did you expect this? The Yankees are now tied with Kansas City for the American League lead in stolen bases. Curtis Granderson stole his 23rd of the season and the Ynakees have 121 for the year. They have 40 steals in his past 33 games.
• Derek Jeter is hitting .353 with 10 doubles, two triples and two home runs in his past 37 games. The guy just keeps hitting, and his batting average is up to .292. His 152 career hits are ninth-most against the Twins among active players. He’s a career .321 hitter against Minnesota.
• Jeter needs four hits to tie Rod Carew for 22nd on baseball’s all-time hits list.
• Hughes on the home run by Trevor Plouffe: “Trevor’s a good fastball hitter and I made the mistake of trying to overpower him. I leaked over the middle of the plate and he put a good swing on it. I made the adjustment with him. Some other guys, we got some good game plans, but it was one run. I knew we could score some runs and we scored plenty tonight.”
• Robinson Cano has an 11-game hitting streak.
• Jeter was taken out of the game in the ninth inning. Girardi said he’s not hurt, just pulled because it was an 8-1 game. Jeter is fine after the play at the plate.
Associated Press photos