For the most part, Phil Hughes has pitched well since the end of April. He had that bad start in Anaheim, but followed it with a complete game in Detroit. He had a rough one against the Braves, then pitched eight shutout innings against the Indians. Today was supposed to be another bounceback.
“It’s just tough, especially the way we fought back,” Hughes said. “Knowing I personally gave that game away early is tough to live with.”
It was the fourth inning, again, that did him in. The fourth inning also got to Hughes last time out in Detroit, and the bounceback outing was right on schedule until the fourth inning today. Hughes had allowed a two-out run in the first inning, but he’d retired seven of eight when that fourth inning started. That’s when the Blue Jays batted around, scoring six more runs, five of them with two outs.
“Just a lot of fastballs out over the middle of the plate,” Hughes said. “I was trying to get the ball down and away, and a lot of pitches were running back. It was hard to find good counts and sequences to get through that inning. … It’s been a battle this road trip, for me personally. These last two starts have been bad. I need to hit the reset button when we get back home, clear my mind, and hopefully get back to doing the things I was doing earlier, and try and forget about these two.”
Hughes has been able to move on, in fact, it was one of his greatest strengths until today. He bounced back from last season, moved on from a rocky April, and before today showed an ability to follow a bad start with a great one. Hughes is a fastball pitcher, and as he put it, he has “been in control out there.” Fastballs down are finishing up, and fastballs up are hitting the middle of the plate.
Given the way he’s pitched in the second half, it should be easy to dismiss these as two rough starts in a solid season. But it’s Hughes, and there always seems to be a sense of scepticism.
“I’ve talked about it before,” Joe Girardi said. “Every pitcher’s going to go through it. When they don’t have their best stuff, you hope they figure out a way to give you six or seven innings, but he wasn’t able to do it today. … I’m not really gonna worry about it. I expect him to bounce back. He got into a long inning the other day where he threw a lot of pitches. Today he had a bad fourth inning. Both times it’s been the fourth inning. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to that either. He hasn’t had his great stuff the last two starts.”
• Girardi officially named David Phelps tomorrow’s starter. “I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Phelps said. “Hopefully I’ll go out there, learn from what I did last time and give us a chance to win. It’s a huge series.”
• The Yankees went 4-3 on this trip, which isn’t bad, but ending the trip by blowing a chance at a five-game winning streak was a considerable letdown. “We had a 4-3 road trip, and it’s unfortunate we lost today,” Girardi said. “We need to have a good homestand.”
• Seven earned runs tied a season-high for Hughes.
• Derek Jeter has his 13th game with at least three hits this season. That’s one more than his total for all of last season. He was a triple away from the cycle.
• Robinson Cano’s 25th home run was the 169th of his career, tying him with Tony Lazzari for the most by a Yankee whose primary position is second base.
• The Yankees three-run seventh might have been bigger if not for a robbed home run and Andruw Jones’ sharp out to leave the bases loaded. Jones hit the ball hard, but came up with a grounder that migth have gone down the line for a double if not for Yan Gomes playing in exactly the right spot. “That’s what you want (to hit the ball hard),” Giradri said. “The guy’s standing right pretty close to the line. Good positioning.”
• Rajai Davis made one of the better catches I’ve ever seen in the seventh, robbing Casey McGehee of what looked like a home run. “It went about where I thought it was going to go,” McGehee said. “I thought it was either going to be right in front of the wall or just barely over. When I saw him turn his back, I thought he gave up on it. Little did I know he was just timing it up.”
• Davis also tied a career-high with five RBI today. “He hurt us today, didn’t he?” Girardisaid. “No doubt about it, offensively and defensively. … I don’t know (the catch) if changes the game. You don’t know, you never know what’s going to happen there, but it’s quite a catch.”
• Called up earlier in the day, Ryota Igarashi pitched two innings, the first of which included a three-run homer that was ultimately the difference in the game. “We were hoping we could keep it at 7-1,” Girardi said. “Igarashi came in. He had a good second inning. The first inning he struggled with command and then he gave up the big hit.”
• Chances are Igarashi will be optioned tomorrow to make room for Derek Lowe.
• Last word goes to Jeter, looking ahead to the upcoming Rangers series: “At this point, all the series are big,” Jeter said. “So we need to go and play well. We know how tough Texas is. They’ve played us tough the last few years and they pretty much have the same team. It’s going to be a challenge for us. Hopefully we’re up for it.”
• One last thing after the last word… Sorry the notes were a bit later than usual today. I had to rush to the airport to catch a flight. Got here in time to finish the blog, sit down to dinner with Dan Barbarisi and Wally Matthews, and catch a late flight to New York. See you all tomorrow from the Stadium.
Associated Press photos