I don’t think I was the only Yankee fan to give up on Phil Hughes about two weeks ago. Hughes hadn’t put together an effective stretch of more than a month or so since June of 2010. Balls were getting scorched off him early in 2012, and he appeared likely to lose his rotation spot to Andy Pettitte. But that whole time, something funny was happening: his peripheral numbers were pretty good. He now has 34 strikeouts in 36 innings (8.5 per 9) against just 9 walks (2.25 per 9).
Hughes was in control the entire game. Some balls found holes, but in the end he only allowed 6 hits, and one run on a late game home run. He had one of his worst performances in terms of strikeouts of the season (just 4), but by no means was he getting lucky out there. Contact was weak, and didn’t allow free passes.
Is this a sign of things to come? I don’t know. Seattle has the 10th best offense in the major leagues, hitting .233/.289/.369 on the season. Hughes certainly wasn’t challenged. But as David Cone pointed out, his stuff looks as good as it has since he came to the major leagues. He’s throwing 92-94 mph with decent control, and his curveball has bite to it again. Hughes has mostly forgotten his cutter experiment, and the results suggest that was a good idea.
The other story of the game? Raul Ibanez. His two hits were huge – a double and a booming home run to center field. You don’t see a lot of 40 year olds hitting home runs to center field in Yankee stadium. Ibanez is hitting better than the Yankees ever could have hoped, and making us forget about his (still shoddy) defense in the outfield.
Ibanez, Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, and Andruw Jones – together the current group that make up the DH spot in the lineup, while the old guys rest – have hit .273/.316/.547. They’ve been playing more than expected due to Brett Gardner’s injury, especially Raul Ibanez, and haven risen to the challenge. The Yankees have managed to cobble together very strong benches in recent years, and this year’s group appears to continue this trend.
Besides that, it was a pretty quick, uneventful game. The Yankees won, and will go for the sweep tomorrow. If all goes right, they’ll be just a game behind Baltimore after the weekend ends.
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