Phil Hughes was in the bullpen for the 2009 postseason, and he was knocked around a little bit. He made terrific start in the 2010 division series, but followed that with two ugly losses in the 2010 ALCS. Last postseason, he was back in the pen and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings.
Consistency remains an uncertain buzzword for Hughes, but the Yankees are counting on the best of him tonight.
“Last year was a disappointing season,” Hughes said. “And the year before that, pitching a good game against Minnesota and not then pitching at all against Texas. I’ve been looking forward to this. … You don’t really want to linger on the negative, but every postseason start and things like that is an experience and something I can learn from. But it’s a different team, different lineup, and I think I kind of know what to expect going into this, and that’s something I can certainly learn from.”
This was a year of adjustments for Hughes. He had success with an aggressive bullpen approach out of the rotation. At times, he trusted his changeup a little bit more than in the past. Late in the year, he developed a slider-cutter hybrid that helped keep hitters off his go-to fastball.
In four starts against the Orioles, he was 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA. Fitting for a guy still searching for consistency, these were his individual game results against Baltimore:
May 1: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
August 1: 6 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Sept. 2: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Sept. 7: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
That’s two pretty good starts, and two pretty bad starts.
“I remember (Sept. 2) was probably the first or second game that I really used my slider quite a bit,” Hughes said. “And I think that could be a big pitch against this team that really likes to hit the fastball. So yeah, I mean, it’s a tough lineup. Obviously (tonight) is going to be a big game.”
At his best, Hughes can be dominant. At his worst, he can be knocked out of a game in the second inning. His season could be seen as a positive, or it could be considered treading water. Tonight could go a long way toward definitively defining his year.
“I had a bad start to the season, had some bad starts mixed in,” Hughes said. “But looking at the positives, I felt like I was able to get the ball every five days and give us a chance to win as much as I could. Kind of an up-and-down season, but you can’t really look at the regular season when it comes to times like this. You just throw that out the window and just try to do the best job you can.”
Associated Press photo