Thursday, September 1, 2011

J.P. Morgan Gongs Phil Hughes

The Gong Show was classic 1970's television. Made on the cheap (it would be perfect for today's watered down television). It featured 'B' list celebrities like Jaye P. Morgan and Jamie Farr who would judge talented, semi-talented, or more likely, really bad acts. When the judges couldn't take it any more they would grab the big gong stick ('cause I don't know what you actually call the drumstick with the big marshmallow looking thing on the end) and slam the gong, crushing the hopes of the performer. (My wife and I still refer to anyone named Gene/Jean as "Gene, Gene, The Dancing Machine") Last night the gong would have been heard loud and clear when Phil Hughes put the Yankees in a 4-1 hole and then couldn't hold a 5-4 lead. The only missing was the over sized cane to yank him off the mound. The Red Sox went on to a 9-5 win to even the three game series with A.J. Burnett facing Jon Lester in the rubber game tonight.

Hughes had a chance to step up and grab the #5 spot in the rotation, but after getting slammed by Oakland last week, he wasn't much better in Fenway Park. The California native started the game with mid-90's velocity, but his speed began to peter out as his location faltered. Derek Jeter had given the Yankees 1-0 lead in the 3rd with an RBI single off Red Sox starter and winner Josh Beckett, but Boston took the lead in their half of the inning. Dustin Pedroia followed a single by Marco Scutaro and a double by Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI ground out to tie the game. Hughes retired Adrian Gonzalez, but Joe Girardi's decision to intentionally walk David Ortiz backfired when Jed Lowrie singled in the go ahead run.

The Red Sox extended their lead to 4-1 in the 5th when David Ortiz crushed a pitch to the deepest part of the park in center field with a man aboard. One wonders what Francisco Cervelli was thinking as he watched Ortiz stand at home plate for 10 minutes, then raise both arms to the sky as he stood on home plate after circling the bases. With Beckett on the mound the Yankees could have been, but they got off the mat and actually took a short lived lead.

Beckett hit Mark Teixeira to start the 6th and then threw a wild pitch to move him into scoring position. Robinson Cano delivered an RBI double to halve the Red Sox lead and Nick Swisher worked a good at-bat to draw a walk. Eric Chavez ripped a fastball into the right field corner that skipped past Josh Reddick and tied the game. It was ruled a 2-run double with an error added in to allow Chavez to reach third. Eduardo Nunez's fly to center brought home Chavez and just like that the Yankees had their first lead of the night.

But after retiring Carl Crawford to start the bottom of the 6th Hughes walked Josh Reddick. Girardi should have pulled his starter right there, but Jaosn Varitek made him pay when he reached out and cued a ball down the third base line. Instead of hopping into the stands or ricocheting off the side wall, the ball took a weird hop off the wall and got by Brett Gardner for a game tying double. Hughes stayed in to get Scutaro for the second out before Girardi went to LOOGY Boone Logan to face Ellsbury. Logan had struck out two batters with the bases loaded to help win Tuesday's game, but this time out he grooved one to the Red Sox centerfielder who turned on it for his 24th home run of the season and a 7-5 Red Sox lead. Jason Varitek then put the game away in the 8th when he smacked a 2-run home run off of Luis Ayala.


Derek Jeter had two more hits last night and finished August with a .387/.435/.472 split and 13 RBI in 25 games. He also had a league high 41 hits for the month.

No matter how A.J. Burnett does this evening, he probably has the #5 spot in the rotation locked up. Hughes has shown he can be good in short spurts and that would be better for his dipping velocity as the game goes on. Burnett, meanwhile, may be nothing more than an innings eater, but he's not suited to the pen. Neither pitcher figures to even be part of the post-season plans, though Hughes could be in the pen.

Robinson Cano finished August with a 1.014 OPS, 7 HR, and 29 RBI. His month also included a 16 game hitting streak.

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