In his career, Phil Hughes has been pretty good against the Mariners. He’s made eight starts against them, faced them three times out of the bullpen, and he has a 3.67 career ERA against them.
But if you breakdown those numbers further and consider only Hughes’ appearances here in spacious Safeco Field, he is 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA.
“I like pitching at home,” Hughes said. “There’s nothing like pitching at Yankee Stadium, but there are some ballparks that you’re comfortable in, (and) this is definitely one of them for me.”
In a lot of ways, Hughes really doesn’t fit his home ballpark. He said he doesn’t change his approach from stadium to stadium, and he doesn’t believe the venue has a particularly significant impact — “If you’re on, you’re on,” he said — but it’s impossible to ignore the fact, in the course of his career, Hughes’ road ERA is nearly three-quarters of a run lower than his home ERA. He’s a fly ball pitcher, and Yankee Stadium is a home run park. Sometimes that’s a bad combination.
“I think every pitcher is going to maybe give up a few more home runs in our ballpark than maybe some of the other ballparks that you go to,” Joe Girardi said. “Especially on the West Coast. There just aren’t as many home runs hit here.”
Last time Hughes faced the Mariners, he was in New York and he didn’t get out of the first inning. Tonight, in Safeco, he didn’t allow an earned run through seven innings. To say the park was the only difference is overly simplistic. There weren’t a lot of deep fly ball outs, and both Girardi and Hughes talked a lot about his ability to mix pitches and avoid deep counts. But it’s hard to ignore Hughes home/road splits, and it’s hard to overlook his ongoing season of highs (like this one) and lows (like the last time he faced the Mariners).
“You look at the year, if I could make some of those bad ones okay, it’d be a different story,” Hughes said. “It’s just one of those things. I’m trying to make a good pitch every time. It’s not like I can sit back, say, ‘I need to do this and this,’ and it’s that easy. Even when I have a bad start, I’m grinding and trying to figure something out on the fly. It’s one of those things where if I had a good answer, I wouldn’t allow it to happen. Hopefully that learning process comes soon, and I can take a start where I don’t have good stuff, and turn it into a start where I give us a chance to win.”
• Mark Teixeira has now homered in three of his last four games. “I’m still not close to where I want to be overall,” he said. “There are some at-bats that I just feel completely lost, but that’s going to take a while. That’s just a product of not playing for so long and not having the at-bats. When I do get a good pitch to hit or when I do make contact, I’m getting the results. I would be worried if I got a great pitch to hit, put my best swing on it and the ball didn’t go anywhere. I would definitely be worried about that, so it’s a good sign that the ball is carrying a little bit.”
• Robinson Cano — who also homered tonight — said he’s already noticed a difference that’s come from having Teixeira hitting behind him. “I’ve been seeing the difference,” he said. “I get more pitches to hit now. … We all know what kind of hitter he is. He’s a switch-hitter, so the last thing you want is for him go out there and hit with men on base. Either I’m going to get a hit or they’re going to get me out right now, but it’s a good thing to have him back the way he’s swinging the bat.”
• This was the second time this season that the Yankees hit back-to-back homers. Cano and Vernon Wells went back-to-back off Ervin Santana in Kansas City.
• Cano was hit on the knee by a slider. He said he’s fine. “Good thing it was a slider, not a hard pitch,” he said.
• Before and after that six-run third inning, the Yankees had just one hit (Travis Hafner’s single in the eighth). Mariners reliever Blake Beaven faced the minimum 20 batters through 6.2 innings. “I don’t care when we score the runs,” Girardi said. “If we get six runs in a night, we’re probably going to win a lot of games.”
• One thing to notice about Hughes’ start tonight is that he used his offspeed his pitches a little more. “I could pitch with my fastball more if I had them off of it a little bit, and they’re thinking about the changeup, slider, curveball,” he said. “Throwing my breaking stuff early allowed me to climb the ladder with my fastball later in counts. I got a couple swinging at sliders, and a couple on my fastball. Everything was kind of working tonight.”
• Hughes said he actually had to make a minor mid-game adjustment with his delivery out of the windup. “Mechanically I was just off a little bit,” he said. “So I was just talking to Larry between innings. It didn’t so much affect the results of the innings early on, but I didn’t really feel quite comfortable until probably the third or the fourth.”
• Any sense of satisfaction for Hughes to pitch well against the Mariners after struggling against them in New York? “A little bit,” he said. “Historically I’ve pitched pretty well against these guys. Obviously you don’t get out of the first inning, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. To come here, it’s pretty satisfying, but at the end of the day it’s one start against one team.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “You want to get off to a good start (on the road trip) because we know it is long. We’ve got these four, then we get a day off, and then you’ve got another week. It’s a long road trip. I think our guys probably like, if you’re coming out here, to get as many games in as possible. But it is long.”
Associated Press photos