Who is the best Yankee pitcher at the moment? Over the last three weeks, the answer is probably C.C. Sabathia. However, Phil Hughes really isn’t all that far behind. Over his last 4 starts, Hughes has pitched 25 2/3 innings (6.4 per start) with an ERA of 2.80. During that time, he has 23 strikeouts (8.06 per 9) and 4 walks (1.40 per 9). The slumping Yankees won 3 of his last 4 starts.
A month ago, I can’t imagine anyone expecting Phil Hughes to be one of the lone bright spots on the team, but he is. Everything isn’t going perfectly – Hughes continues to chase the single-season home runs allowed record – but enough is going right for Phil that he is doing more than just keep the Yankees in games. He’s throwing hard, keeping his stuff late in the game, and making big outs when the pressure is on. I don’t see any reason to believe that he’s likely to revert back to his April ineptitude any time soon.
The Yankee offense hasn’t made much progress over last week, despite the win. Luke Hochevar is only probably still in a major league starting rotation at this point because the Royals a) are terrible and b) were dumb enough to select him 1st overall. Hochevar came into the night with an ERA over 7.00. A good Yankee lineup, as they’ve done over the past few years, should chase him off the mound with 5-6 runs by the 5th inning. Instead, they allowed the game to stay close, scoring just three.
A win helps to ease our frustrations, but it shouldn’t lead to a perception that the reality has changed. The bottom half of the Yankee order is still slumping terribly, not working the count, and not getting on base, tonight’s 6 hits and 3 walks notwithstanding. The Yankee roster is still too inflexible to make real changes. Brett Gardner is still injured. The Yankees are still relying on quad-A players for important innings late in the game. Baseball teams go on extended losing runs for some combination of substandard teams and bad luck. The Yankees haven’t been particularly lucky lately, but they also aren’t running out a roster day-in and day-out that inspires a lot of confidence right now. If key players – I’m looking at you Mark Teixeira – start to turn it around or return from the disabled list, this may change, but for now, nothing has.
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