A night after officially exiting the AL playoff race, the Yankees got a parting gift. Phil Hughes, who hadn’t pitched what you’d call a good game since April 3, bookended his season with a stellar start. He used 100 pitches to get through eight innings, an impressive 71 of which were strikes. The five hits he surrendered resulted in only two runs, as he helped himself by striking out six and walking none. This was the Phil Hughes we had hoped for.
His best innings were the third, when he disposed of the Jays with nine pitches, and the eighth inning, when he did it with eight. He wasn’t exactly facing world beaters, but you gotta get the job done with those guys. In total, he had four 1-2-3 innings, and never had more than one runner on base at a time.
Leadoff doubles are killer, and Hughes paid the price for it in the first. With Joe Inglett on second and no one out, Marco Scutaro grounded out to second and Alex Rios hit a fly ball to left field, plating Toronto’s first run. Hughes faced the same situation in the fourth when Alex Rios doubled to lead off, but worked out of it by retiring the next three Blue Jays.
His only other blemish came when he hung a curve to Scott Rolen in the bottom of the seventh. That’s what cost him the win, though he certainly deserved it. Problem is, A.J. Burnett did, too. In the end, neither put a tally in the win column. That honor belonged to Jose Veras, who used just ten pitches to record a strike out, a fly out, and a ground out en route to a perfect ninth. Sidney Ponson, in what I guess was a tune-up for Saturday, set down the Jays 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Tonight, Hughes proved what we all know: the kid’s good. What we don’t know is if he can always be this good. It might take some more time before we know for sure. Do the Yankees have the patience? I suppose the answer to that question rides heavily on how the General Manager situation plays out. You know how we at RAB feel, of course.
Much thanks to Bobby Abreu and his 10th-inning grand slam. I’m glad we weren’t tortured by the baseball gods with an extra-innings marathon in a meaningless game. Further thanks to Xavier Nady for proving that yeah, you can drive in runs off A.J. Burnett. Oh, and to Marco Scutaro, for throwing to first for some unbeknownst reason.
This puts the Yanks four games ahead of the Jays with four to play. They’re currently 9-8 on the season against them. I’m not saying finishing in third place is good. I’m just saying I don’t want to finish fourth.