Thursday, September 16, 2010
Don't let anyone fool you. By now you have probably read that Phil Hughes pitched a good game last night, except for "a couple of mistake pitches" to Dan Johnson. Sorry, that doesn't cut it.
Hughes made those two huge mistakes to Johnson, who hit both out of the park to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 victory over the Yankees. As a result, the Rays passed the Yankees and moved back into sole possession of first place in the AL East. Both teams have today off.
Hughes did look dominant early with a strong fastball and devastating curve. In fact, staked to a 1-0 lead, he retired the first 12 men he faced. Evan Longoria ended that streak with a single leading off the 5th, which was when Hughes made his first mistake.
Johnson, who never materialized into the hitter he was thought of as a highly regarded prospect in the A's organization, smacked his 3rd home run of the season to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
The Yankees continued to fail with runners in scoring position and blew a golden opportunity against Rays starter James Shields in the 1st inning. Shields who has the nickname "Big Game James", but only seems to pitch that way against the Yankees, has yielded the most runs in the American League this season. But entering play last night, he was 2-0, 2.77 vs. the Bombers this season. He got himself in immediate trouble by loading the bases on singles by Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, and a walk to Alex Rodriguez.
Robinson Cano drove in his 99th run with a single through the left side as Shields' pitch count rose rapidly. But as has been the case the last week and a half, the Yankees let an opposing pitcher off the hook. This time it was Lance Berkman bouncing into an inning ending double play. That would be the only run the Yankees would manage off Shields in six-plus innings.
The Yankees rallied though in the 7th as soon as Shields was removed. Reliever Chad Qualls hit Derek Jeter, or did he? Jeter pulled off an Academy Award worthy performance, grabbing his elbow after Qualls' pitch rode inside and nailed him on his....bat handle. Replays clearly showed ball meeting bat. Needless to say, Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected after arguing that one.
After a short delay, Curtis Granderson lined his 18th home run into the right field seats for a 3-2 Yankees lead. That turned things back over to Hughes, who retired the first two men he faced in the 7th before Matt Joyce reached on a single to center. That brought up Johnson, whose career has included a year in Japan and 31 home runs in Triple-A this season. Despite hitting near the Mendoza line, Johnson ruined Hughes' and the Yankees' nights when he drove another ball into the right field seats for a 4-3 Rays lead.
Hughes allowed just six hits, but that stat is totally meaningless when you are on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
Joba Chamberlain had a strong relief appearance, retiring all four men he faced, two by strikeout.
Poor job by the official scorer last night for awarding Chad Qualls the victory. The veteran reliever last two-thirds of an inning and gave up the go ahead home run to Granderson. Grant Balfour, who threw a scoreless 8th, should have earned the win.