When the seventh inning rolled around last night, I had developed a veritable man-crush on Phil Hughes. Those guts! That poise! That’s a True Yankee® in the making.
Hyperbole aside and fantastic pictures aside, what Phil Hughes did was nothing short of brilliant. In relief of the best pitcher of our generation who may have made his last start ever, Hughes came in and was dominant for 3.2 innings. He threw 63 pitches, 43 for strikes, while giving up 2 hits and striking out 4. At the ripe old age of 21, he recorded the biggest win of the Yankee season so far.
Even better, though, was his pitching. Hughes was mixing speeds and hitting his spots like we knew he could. His fastball was up around 93/94 while a few nasty breaking pitches.
It’s easy to imagine a 21-year-old feeling overwhelmed in Yankee Stadium. It’s a do-or-die game 3 in which the beloved manager’s job is on the line. It’s a relief appearance taking over for a visibly disappointed and emotional Roger Clemens who had to leave his potential last-ever start of his Hall of Fame career over a recurring injury.
Hughes, already dealing with what many — but not us — considered to be a disappointing first year, could have just folded. He could have burned the innings and delivered the Yankees to another long season. But instead, he emerged. He dominated. He was, in a word, amazing. While TBS gave Johnny Damon the Player of the Game Award, it’s very hard to argue against Phil Hughes as the real player of the game.
So now the Yankees and Joe Torre live another day. Chien-Ming Wang, on three days’ rest, will face Paul Byrd. Bring home another win. While yesterday’s game was all about the future and Phil Hughes, today’s game is all about today. Win today; play Wednesday. It’s that easy.