With his rotation spot possibly in jeopardy, Phil Hughes reminded everyone why it’s foolish to give up on talented young pitchers when they hit the inevitable rocky patch, hurling six dominant innings of shutout ball (and only needing 65 pitches to do it) on his way to what looked to be an 8-inning outing (or even the first nine-inning complete game of his career) had the skies not opened after the top of the 7th inning, and leading the Yankees to a 6-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Anecdotally — and results-wise — this was easily the best Hughes has looked on the mound since Game 3 of the 2010 ALDS, as the velocity on his four-seamer was finally back to where it needs to be, consistently registering 93mph (92.52 avg. speed, per Brooks, and maxing out at 95mph) on the YES gun. This was a fastball-heavy start for Hughes, who threw 44 fastballs (and got three swinging strikes) out of his 65 pitches, but perhaps even more importantly was the sprinkling in of what friend-of-the-blog Josh Weinstock of IIATMS called a power curve that was apparently being misclassified as a cutter by Gameday. For what it’s worth, Brooks had Hughes with 10 cutters and four curveballs, but with an average speed on the cutter of 84mph, it does indeed sound like some cutters were mislabeled.
Hughes only gave up three hits, walked none and struck out four. He pitched quickly and pounded the strike zone – throwing 48 of his 65 pitches for strikes — inducing a lot of weak contact off the Chicago bats. All in all it was exactly what everyone in Yankeeland has been hoping to see from Hughes, and the true test will be whether he can actually build on this and continue to be successful. We’ve seen Hughes look amazing one game and terrible the next; a string of strong outings would give the Yankees a nice problem to have with six men in the rotation currently capable of throwing a competitive game nearly every time out.
Almost as exciting as Hughes’ best start of the season was the fact that the Yankees were able to tag John Danks for four runs, including a Robinson Cano RBI double, Russell Martin‘s first home run since June and a Mark Teixeira two-run blast. Oh, and Tex would add one more bomb off former Blue Jay Jason Frasor, this time from the left side. This was the 12th time in his career he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, and is a new Major League record.
The win represented the Yankees’ fifth straight and ensured at least a tie of this week’s four-game series with Chicago.
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