“We needed a win tonight,” Hughes said. “It doesn’t matter if my stuff was good, I felt good or whatever. I have to find a way to get us through that last inning and get us through the sixth with a lead, and it didn’t happen.”
Ultimately, though, the Yankees have to decide whether this start was bad enough to push Hughes out of the rotation. And answering that question requires some additional details.
Frankly, there were times Hughes looked pretty good tonight. He had good velocity on his fastball, and he threw some good curveballs. This left-heavy lineup left little use for his cutter, so he was partially without one of his pitches. Three of his first four runs came with two outs, when one good pitch changes everything. His biggest mistake was easily the 3-2 fastball that Ortiz hit for a home run, and Hughes was second-guessing the decision not to stay offspeed. The last run charged to him scored off Boone Logan.
But the biggest runs of the night came in a bizarre sequence in the sixth. Hughes walked Josh Reddick on a 3-2 fastball after a moth flew into his right-eye mid-stride. He was aiming low and away and almost hit Reddick with the wayward pitch.
“I really didn’t want to tell you guys that because I can obviously see what’s going to come from this,” Hughes said. “But yeah, a moth flew in my eye on the 3-2 and that’s why I yanked it and missed my location by about 8 feet.”
Up next was Jason Varitek, who was clearly fooled by a curveball, but had to swing on a hit-and-run, and wound up slapping a pivotal double down the third-base line.
“It was the cherry on top of that inning,” Hughes said.
So what to make of Hughes’ tonight? He wasn’t good, but he said his stuff was “certainly” good enough. He made some bad pitches, but he also ran into some bad luck. If the Yankees were looking for an outing that would make the decision obvious, this wasn’t it.
“I thought his stuff was a lot better tonight than it was the other night,” Joe Girardi said. “He had a bump in the road, but I thought he got back on track pretty decent tonight… We’ll make our decision when we have to.”
• One night after Boone Logan got two huge outs, he gave up the game’s pivotal home run. “He just got behind him,” Girardi said. “Ellsbury has been a dangerous hitter all year. He got a 3-1 pitch that he liked and he hit it out of the ballpark. He’s hit a lot of home runs this year. Boonie’s been great for us. He’s been outstanding against lefthanders, but it happens.”
• Before tonight’s game, Josh Beckett had allowed a total of three runs in four starts against the Yankees this season. Tonight, the Yankees got four runs in the sixth inning alone. “We’re happy we scored runs off him,” Derek Jeter said. “But we didn’t win the game. Quite honestly, I don’t think it makes a difference who’s pitching. We’re trying to win games. I don’t think you can necessarily say we figured him out. We were able to score those five, but it wasn’t enough.”
• Varitek’s double was odd not only because he was so obviously fooled by the pitch, but also because it seemed to scoot along the top of the ledge in front of the stands. It seemed impossible that a fan didn’t touch it, but the umpires were sure that the ball got through cleanly. “I was wondering if someone touched it,” Girardi said. “Eddie said no one did. He’s right there, so you have to believe what he says.”
• Girardi did not announce any September call-ups after the game. I’ve heard five different names, but I don’t have any of them absolutely confirmed. It really sounds like Jesus Montero will be here tomorrow.
• Because the Yankees could face Boston in the postseason, Girardi was asked whether he would trust Hughes against this lineup in the playoffs. “Let’s worry about getting in the playoffs, and let’s see how everyone is throwing if we do get in the playoffs,” Girardi said. “Then we’ll make our decision what we’re going to do.”
• The Yankees will come into tomorrow’s game with a chance to win this series and pull back within a half game of the division lead. They could also lose the game, lose the series, and fall a full two and a half games back. “We can’t think about what’s happened up to this point,” Jeter said. “It really makes no difference. If that was the case we’d just give them the games and say, you can have them. We came here, we played well yesterday. We won. They beat us today. We can’t worry about what happened up to this point.”
Associated Press photos