Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We Could get Hughes to This

He's heard all the hype. The fans have heard all the hype. But no one had seen anything positive from prospect Phil Hughes since 2007. That all changed last night. Hughes stepped up big time, throwing six scoreless inning to help the Yankees snap a four game losing streak with an 11-0 whitewashing of the Detroit Tigers.

For a while it looked like the offense would let Hughes' effort go to waste. They couldn't push a run across against starter Edwin Jackson through six innings, but then erupted for a 10-run seventh inning.

But Hughes was the story in this one. He gave the starting rotation a huge boost. Instead of Chien-Ming Wang getting hammered and taxing the bullpen, the Yankees watched Hughes allow just two hits over six innings. He walked two, struck out six and threw 99 pitches. He established the tone right from the start with strikeouts of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco in the first inning.

The only real trouble Hughes got into was in the fourth inning when he hit Miguel Cabrera with one out pitch and gave up a single to Carlos Guillen. A fielder's choice and a walk to Brandon Inge loaded the bases with two outs, but Hughes retired Josh Anderson on an inning ending ground out.

Meanwhile, back in the visitors' dugout....the Yankees continued to fail with runners in scoring position - they own the worst mark in the AL . Johnny Damon flied out with two on and two out in the third. Melky Cabrera struck out with two on and two out in the fourth. Robinson Cano struck out with two outs and a man on third in the sixth. Then came lucky number seven and the offense exorcised its demons, at least for one night.

Jim Leyland sent for Ryan Perry to start the inning and the Yankees offense went to work. Nick Swisher opened the frame with a single and Melky walked. Jose Molina sacrificed the runners over and set up the turning point of the night. Pinch-hitter Jorge Posada, not starting due to a bad hamstring - not for dogging it as some people speculated, lofted a shallow fly to left that Anderson misplayed into a 2-base error. In all likelihood Swisher would not have scored had Anderson caught it, but instead the Yankees had themselves a 2-0 lead.

A walk to Derek Jeter ended Perry's night, but Nate Robertson would fare no better. Damon singled to center for a 3-0 lead. Robertson retired Mark Teixeira for the second out of the inning, but Hidkei Matsui and Cano delivered back to back RBI singles for a 5-0 lead. Two walks later, Brandon Lyon served up a grand slam to Molina to put the game out of reach.

Hughes got his congratulations and the Joe Girardi turned things over to the pen for three scoreless innings, including one by Mark Melancon. The Yankees can envision a day when Melancon will close out Phil Hughes' victories. For now though, the Yankees are just happy to be back on the winning track.

Game Notes

Nick Swisher may be pulling out of his slump. He was 2-3 with his 5th home run of the season, walked twice, and scored three times.

Hideki Matsui was 2-5 and is 14-32 (.438) in his last eight games.

Phil Hughes' victory was his first regular season win since September 27, 2007 against Tampa Bay. He also beat the Cleveland Indians in that season's Division Series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, by winning his sixth career game he tied the Yankees record of total wins by a first round pick (Bill Burbach, '65 draft). That's just sad.

Also according to Elias, Robinson Cano's two at-bats of 10 or more pitches last night was the first time he saw double digit pitches since August of last year.

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