According to Phil Hughes, the pitch that we’ve heard so much about in the past few seasons was his biggest key today. The right-hander turned in his best start of the season, pitching 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball while relying heavily on his changeup to lead the Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Mariners.
“It was a good day,” Hughes said. “I probably didn’t have my best fastball or my best curveball today, but my changeup really allowed me to get out of some jams and make some good pitches when I was behind in counts. I think that was the pitch that I really look at as the equalizer today.”
Granted, Seattle’s lineup won’t be mistaken for the ’27 Yankees anytime soon, but Hughes has now turned in three consecutive good starts after looking very shaky to start the season. Each has been better than the last, and this is certainly something he can continue to build on.
“It’s been a process overall to get myself right,” Hughes said. “There’s sometimes when you can hang onto momentum when you’re pitching well, but as far as a turning point, it’s kind of hard to get any worse than I was in the beginning of the year. I’m just trying to build on every start and get us some wins.”
Hughes talked about taking a “reliever mentality” into the game, which meant attacking hitters and not shying away from contact. He didn’t have a ton of strikeouts (four), but he was efficient, pitching deeper into a game than he has all season.
“Larry and him talked about just being aggressive – going as long as you can, as hard as you can,” Joe Girardi said. “He was so successful coming out of the bullpen and locating everything, it’s just been an attitude that we want him to take on.”
• The fact that Hughes’ changeup was his most consistent pitch today was very encouraging. That’s a pitch that he’s been working on for quite some time, but has never had tremendous success with. Coupled with a fastball that hit 95 on the gun several times today, it was very effective. It’s also worth noting that Hughes used very few cutters today, which usually sit in the 88-91 MPH range. “I think the main thing is probably that there were eight left-handers in the lineup today,” Hughes said. “I feel like my cutter is a little bit more effective to right-handers. I did throw a few to Montero, but other than that I feel better with my four-seamer going into lefties.”
• While the rotation did not have a good month of April, the tide seems to have turned here in May. Ace CC Sabathia has won five consecutive starts, and the rest of the rotation is shaping up. With Andy Pettitte completing his comeback tomorrow, the five-some of CC, Pettitte, Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova is looking pretty formidable. “CC sets the pace for everybody,” Hughes said. “If we get him pitching the way that he has been pitching, everyone kind of feeds off of that.”
• The big inning for the Yankees came in the bottom of the second. After Mark Teixeira doubled, Nick Swisher recorded the second out of the inning with a fly out to left. As he has all season, Raul Ibanez followed with a clutch two-out RBI double. Russell Martin broke out of his 1 for 16 slump with a laser to dead CF to score Ibanez, and then Jayson Nix laced a two-run homer. Just like that, it was 4-0 Yankees. “I love it,” Girardi said. “Those are the runs that kill teams. Those are the runs that are big for you and hurt other teams, and we got them today.”
• Ibanez continued his hot play with a solo shot in the fourth. I’ve interviewed him several times, and while he’s a really nice guy, he’s not one for juicy quotes. “I’m just trying not to do too much,” he repeated several times. “Trying to hit a ball hard and put it in play.”
• Girardi talked about Nix, who broke an 0 for 20 slump that dated back to last season with his opposite field homer in the second. “I’m sure it’s extremely gratifying,” Girardi said. “This kid just goes out and does his business every day. He’s a pleasure to watch work… He gave us a huge cushion with that two-run homer.”
• Girardi strongly disagreed with the umpire’s decision to allow a runner to score in the ninth when Carp’s homer was overruled after a replay review and changed to a double, which cost Boone Logan a run. “He said he slowed up and he would have scored, and I don’t necessarily agree with that,” Girardi said. “We’re about wins, but guys care about what they give up – that’s the bottom line. They have pride in their work.”
• Hughes talked about what it’s going to be like watching Pettitte take the ball tomorrow. “I can’t speak for everybody else, but I’m really excited about it,” he said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and obviously he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t think he could do it.”
Associated Press photos