Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't Let the Wright Guy Beat You

"Look..up in the sky...it's a bird..it's a plane..it's a Phil Hughes fastball."

If you scratched your head every time you were baffled by Phil Hughes, you would have a number of scabs on your scalp and your fingernails would be worn down to the nub. Such is life when you are watching Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hughes take his regular turn in the rotation.

Monday's night game with the Mets at Citi Field was a prime example of both sides of Hughes show up in a ball game. Hughes was throwing a beautiful game, but the Yankees had scored just a single run due to failed opportunities against Mets starter Jon  Niese. David Wright then strode to the plate in the bottom of the 7th with no one on base. Moments later expletives were heard through living rooms, dens, bars, and in areas of Citi Field that Yankees  fans were seated.

Wright is the only great hitter the Mets have. There is absolutely no reason to face him in a big spot in the game. A big spot such as protecting a one run lead in the 7th inning. Feel free to challenge Wright in the early innings, but with Lucas Duda on deck or whichever possible pinch-hitter is sitting on the bench, you do not give Wright anything to hit.

Of course, it was not Hughes' intention - the target was away - to give up a game tying gopher ball, but that's just what he did.  Wright got a pitch in his wheelhouse and tied the game. As the NY Post's Joel Sherman pointed out, Hughes actually gave up back-to-back home runs, but Brett Gardner robbed Daniel Murphy of a home run to end the 6th inning.

The Yankees ended up with a 2-1 loss when an ineffective David Robertson gave up a two-out RBI single to Murphy an inning later. But they would not have been in that position had Hughes not served up his regular, every fifth day meatball. Hughes has allowed at least one home run in seven of his 10 starts this season and last year, when he served up 35 long balls, opponents homered in 25 of Hughes' 32 starts.

So while Hughes can come through with a number of good starts, more often that not that "one mistake" or "two mistakes" end up costing him and the team. Hughes has even more trouble in his own ballpark, which is not suited for a flyball/strikeout pitcher (in fact Hughes has one of the lowest ground ball outs per game in MLB).

Yankees GM Brian Cashman was on ESPN radio Monday afternoon and told hosts Don LaGreca and Ryan Ruocco that he is still very high on Hughes and still believes he can be a very successful pitcher. Something tells me that between now and when Hughes declares his free agency after this season, Cashman's opinion will change.

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