“You lay in bed and you think about things,” he said. “What could have gone differently for you, and what you could have done better. It’s tough. It’s tough any way you slice it.”
Doubt anyone needs to be reminded of the details, so here are the basics: Hughes got two outs, allowed seven runs and saw his season ERA jump by nearly a run and a half on Wednesday. Tonight will be his first start since the debacle, an opportunity for — as he put it — “officially putting that one out of my memory bank.” Of course, forgetting about that one will require a significant step forward, which will require some sort of correction.
“I felt like I was maybe on the side of the ball a little bit, which tends (to cause) my fastball to come back over the middle of the plate,” Hughes said. “My bullpen, I tried to focus on staying behind the baseball and continue to stay aggressive. It wasn’t any drastic changes or anything.”
Fact is, Wednesday was an extreme example of what’s made Hughes such an up-and-down pitcher, especially this season. He’s made eight starts this year. In his first two and his last two — the four starts when he struggled — he’s had a combined ERA of 14.17 with seven strikeouts. In his middle four starts, he’s had a combined ERA of 1.93 with 30 strikeouts. He’s been terrific for half the season (punctuated by eight scoreless innings on May 4), and he’s been awful for half of the season (punctuated by Wednesday’s embarrassment).
“It’s all fastball command, really,” Hughes said. “The days that I’ve had good command of my fastball, I’ve been able to work everything off that. Those have been the good ones. The bad ones, I’m falling behind and trying to figure something out. When the fastball is there and I’m locating it, I have a good chance to be good that day. If not, I think I need to do a better job of recognizing that earlier and throwing more off-speed pitches to try to counter-balance that.”
Locating the fastball requires control, beginning with Hughes’ emotions. He said he has a tendency to get on the side of the ball when he overthrows. Larry Rothschild told Hughes that overthrowing was the problem on Wednesday.
“Larry said it reminded him of last year when I threw in Anaheim (5.1 innings, 7 earned),” Hughes said. “Sometimes you just get too much adrenaline going and tend to overthrow the baseball. For me, when I do that, I get on the side and rush out a little bit. It’s something I need to recognize when I’m doing that and try to do a better job of handling my emotions, especially in the first inning, which is tough sometimes. I think that’s when you’re amped up the most. Once I get rolling a little bit, it becomes easier.”
Associated Press photo