After six innings of one-run ball — his second strong start in a row — Phil Hughes ERA has dropped to a nice, round number: 6.00. Truth is, there’s nothing nice about it, and Hughes knows there’s not nearly enough time to make his season numbers look pretty.
All that’s left are these final few regular season starts, and then the month of October.
“I can’t change what’s already happened,” Hughes said. “But from this point on I can try to pitch well enough to have a job when the playoffs come around. I’d love be out there and help this team as much as I can, because you know we always have a good chance of winning, so that’s really the only goal I have right now.”
Beyond CC Sabathia, the Yankees postseason rotation is anyone’s guess. Everyone seems to be pitching for a job, and no one seems to have a spot absolutely guaranteed. Tonight, Hughes made his case, and his strongest statement might have been getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
“That was a huge situation and he really dug deep right there,” Austin Romine said. “Larry told him, ‘This is your game right here, let’s go get it.’ I was fired up, and he didn’t even bat an eye. He kind of dug deep there and got out of that situation.”
This was a win defined by the Yankees ability to score against Felix Hernandez. That’s what will be remembered about this game. If anything else, it might be Romine’s debut as a starting catcher and his first big league hit. Hughes’ performance will be secondary. His big picture impact will be whatever impact it has on defining his role next month.
“At this point, I guess the whole six-man thing doesn’t really hold as much weight,” Hughes said. “We’re coming up on the last part of the year, and as long as they keep CC on five days, I think that’s pretty much all you can worry about. At this point I’m just trying to finish off the year strong and see what happens when October rolls around.”
• The Yankees got to Hernandez tonight, something they hadn’t really done in a while. Not to this extent, anyway, and Girardi thought that was a key part of Hughes getting through the sixth. “You don’t want to give them any life,” Girardi said. “(Hernandez) might go back out if it’s 6-3, or 6-4, so I thought that was really big on Hughes’ part.”
• As he so often does, Girardi said the difference for Hughes was his ability to spot pitches. “I just think his location,” Girardi said. “He got some outs on changeups tonight. I thought his curveball was better. He attacked. For Phil, it comes down to location, like most of our pitchers. His curveball seemed to be sharper to me tonight, and he got some strikeouts on it.”
• Not yet knowing whether he would start, Romine showed up extra early at the park to start preparing just in case. “I thought he did a very good job,” Girardi said. “We were just talking (in the dugout) about situations and how to attack some of the guys. They took the plan, they executed the plan and I thought he did a real nice job.”
• Romine on his first big league hit: “They say that first one is the hardest one to get. I was kind of starting to think about it, and then it just happened. It made me relax.”
• Significant impact from Chris Dickerson, who had exactly one at-bat since rejoining the team this month. He hadn’t faced live pitching in two weeks, but he had a hit in each of his first two at-bats, including a two-run homer off King Felix. It was Dickerson’s first big league home run since May of 2009. “He made us look really smart is what he did,” Girardi said. “I don’t know if he’s had an at-bat since he’s been back up with us, but he’s used to that. He’s been a guy that’s come off the bench and gotten spot starts, and he was prepared to play.”
• Girardi on why he finally went with Dickerson against a right-hander: “It’s a big outfield, (and) Hughesy can be a fly ball pitcher at times.”
• Turns out, the Yankees weren’t sure Dickerson would be able to stay in the game after that first single. He jammed his right thumb badly sliding into second base on the stolen base, and Dickerson initially thought it was broken. He said he’s been using a bat with a thicker handle lately, and that mean he didn’t have to put as much pressure on his thumb when he swung.
• Hughes was fired up when Curtis Granderson hauled in the last out in the sixth inning. It was a nice running play that made a significant difference in this start being a good one.
• Mark Teixeira hit his 15th career homer at Safeco, that ties him with Eric Chavez for the second-most by any opponent in this stadium. Rafael Palmeiro hit 17.
• Derek Jeter has an 11-game hitting streak, his longest of the season. He’s hitting .326 during the streak.
• Hernandez had a five-game winning streak against the Yankees, the longest ever for a Mariners pitcher. “It was nice to finally get a win against him,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photos