Phil Hughes was terrific tonight. He faced a lineup full of left-handed hitters — literally all lefties and switch-hitters — and delivered eight scoreless innings, coming three outs away from a complete game shutout. Of all the outs he got, though, the most memorable was the one that shouldn’t have been an out at all.
“I saw (the umpire) kind of looking at my glove,” Dewayne Wise said. “So I just got up, put my head down and ran off the field.”
You know what was missing from Wise’s glove as he ran off the field at the end of the seventh? The ball. He never had it. When Wise flipped over the wall and into the seats for the final out of the inning, the ball hit off the heel of his glove and into the stands. Wise never tried to sell it, he just got up and jogged off the field as third-base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled an out to leave an Indians runner stranded at third base.
“Normally when a guy makes a play like that, that’s the first thing they’re saying. He’s showing the ball,” Wise said. “But I guess he was confident I made the catch. Like I said, it was a tough angle for him. But truthfully, the ball popped out. … Stuff like that happens. They’re not perfect. He said out right away, so what was I supposed to do? Run back to left field? I ran off the field.”
Said DiMuro: “Now that I see the tape it’s obvious that the ball fell out of his glove. In hindsight, I should have asked him to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision.”
After seeing a replay between innings, Jack Hannahan — who hit the ball — got into an argument with DiMuro in the middle of the eighth inning and was ejected. Hannahan thought DiMuro had also blown a fair/foul call on Chris Stewart’s RBI single in the second inning.
“By the time you find out, it’s too late,” Indians umpire Manny Acta said. “We knew because they didn’t show it on the board. It’s a great play, how come you’re not showing it on the board for the fans? We were discussing that with the umpires. What can he do? He can’t see the guy picking up the ball over there. He felt bad, but the damage was done.”
Acta had no problem with Wise’s reaction — “If you can get an out, why not?” Acta said. “We’ve had phantom tags in baseball forever.” — and Wise rewarded the left-field fans a little later in the game.
“I threw a ball over there a couple of innings later,” Wise said. “They already had one.”
• If not for the Wise non-catch, this game would have been all about a bounceback start for Hughes, who rebounded for him a rocky outing last week against the Braves to pitch through the eighth inning for the second time this month. “My fastball was good,” Hughes said. “I threw some good curveballs when I needed to. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen an all-left-handed lineup before, and I’m pretty comfortable with my fastball going into lefties. I did that a lot and things worked out.”
• Hughes ERA is down to 4.48, the lowest it’s been since his first start of the season. The difference between this start and his last one? “Just trying to keep my fastball more true, which I struggled with early I think,” Hughes said. “I did a better job as the game progressed. It’s the same things we’ve been working on; sometimes you have to chalk it up you didn’t have your stuff that day and go from there.”
• Asked when he knew he had good stuff, Hughes said the answer was, never. “It wasn’t great, I didn’t think,” he said. “I was able to work and locate some pitches pretty well, but it wasn’t the best stuff I’ve had all year. I had a good curveball, especially to my arm side, that allowed me to get out of some situations. It’s not the best stuff I had, especially early. I think I found a little bit better stuff as the game progressed.”
• Catcher Chris Stewart said Hughes made up for his lack of stuff by staying aggressive. “Forcing them to hit the ball,” Stewart said. “He wasn’t shying away from anybody. He was forcing them to try to hit his fastball.”
• The Wise play might have helped Hughes get through the night without a run, but he also did a nice job getting out of some trouble by himself. “Really impressed, and you can look at the (seventh), where he gets a runner on second with nobody out,” Joe Girardi said. “All three innings (the fifth, sixth and seventh). It ends up those runs might have meant something when you look at the game now. It’s really impressive what he did.”
• Speaking of meaning something now, Cory Wade had another rough outing in that four-run ninth. It’s becoming a trend for him lately. “Couple of balls over the middle and they hit them well,” Stewart said. “Kind of sucks. That one ball that Damon hit just fell in there. That could have been the end of the game, no runs given up.”
• Girardi said some of the same stuff — if a few balls go just a little differently, Wade might have had a scoreless innings — but he also acknowledged that Wade’s command hasn’t been nearly as good as it was earlier this season when he was a go-to setup man. Girardi doesn’t believe he’s hurt. “His velocity is the same,” Girardi said. “If I saw a real drop in velocity, I’d be concerned. I just think he’s struggling right now.”
• The Yankees are now a season-high 17 games over .500. … They’ve won seven of their past eight series and nine of their past 11. … They’ve won 10 of their past 14 home games and 14 of their past 17 overall.
• Alex Rodriguez hit his 13th homer of the year, but the Yankees didn’t lean on the home run in this one. They went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, including 3-for-4 in their three-run second inning. “We only hit one homer tonight!” Girardi said. “It was really good. It was important. We had some big hits by some guys. Masterson’s sinker is crazy. The thing is moving all over the place. Guys are shaking their heads. Righties are saying, ‘Come on, lefties.’ It comes in on the right-handed hitters. He’s a tough guy to hit, so for us to manufacture some runs was pretty impressive.”
• Russell Martin said his back injury is less significant than the one he had last season. “Last year was worse,” he said. “I don’t know how much time I missed last year, but it’s definitely not as severe as it was last year. It’s just something small. I’ll take care of it. If I had to play today, I’d play.”
• Rafael Soriano faced one batter and got his 16th save of the season.
• Derek Jeter went 2-for-5 and now has a .327 average on his birthday. His next hit will tie Cal Ripken for 13th on baseball’s all-time hits list.
Associated Press photos