The Yanks were down by two, and with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, I thought Robinson Cano, hitless so far, would deliver that big blow against Jonathan Papelbon. On the first pitch, he swung at a 94 mile-an-hour fastball just over the outside corner of the plate and fouled it back.
Cano had just missed the Yanks’ best chance to tie, and when Papelbon went to work, I had a sinking feeling the big hit wouldn’t come. On a night marked by a long rain delay, the Yanks almost pulled off another comeback but just couldn’t get those last two runs across.
Yankee fans went into tonight’s game expecting big things from Phil Hughes. He threw six stellar shut-out innings last week in Detroit but clearly didn’t have his “A” game today. He threw 94 pitches in just four innings, and while 56 of them were strikes, he wasn’t attacking the zone. This outing was more reminiscent of 2008 Phil Hughes than last week’s edition of Hughes.
On the night, his line wasn’t pretty. He threw 4 innings and gave up 7 hits and 4 walks. He struck out just two and allowed a crushing Mike Lowell home run. His defense did not aid him as Jose Molina, now thrust into a starting role, allowed a run to score on a passed ball early on.
Hughes, still just 22, gets a pass. In fact, as Zach Greinke showed again tonight with a complete game shut-out, Hughes gets a pass until he turns 26. He had to face a two-hour rain delay and very damp conditions when the game started. He had his stuff and was at 94/95 to start the game. He just couldn’t locate. He’ll face the Orioles in Baltimore on Saturday night.
With Hughes at his pitch count, the Yanks turned to Al Aceves. The Mexican Gangster threw an admirable 4.1 innings. He struck out 7 but allowed two runs on what would be a costly Jason Bay two-run shot off of the left field foul pole. Those runs would be the difference in the game. Aceves was good, and barring any necessary roster moves the Yanks may have to make, he’ll stick around. But that one pitch was the difference in the game. The Yanks almost got away with it; the ball was almost foul. Baseball though is a game of definites, and almost isn’t good enough.
On the other side of the ball, though, the Yanks faced an uphill battle. Jon Lester had his stuff working tonight. He struck out 10 on what was a fair strike zone (but more on that later today). The Yanks, though, went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base. It’s hard to win games when that big hit never materializes.
Game Notes: Mark Teixeira’s two home runs don’t quite fit in with my game narrative tonight, but I was quite pleased to see them. Teixeira walloped two balls, one from the right side and one from the left, and those two shots are a clear indication that his wrist is finally allowing him to generate power. With the return of both his health and A-Rod, I would expect a big month from Teixeira…Jorge Posada was removed from the game in the 6th inning when he felt “grabbing” in his left hamstring. According to Joe Girardi, Posada aggravated a hamstring injury when he slid unnecessarily, and the Yanks’ catcher and leading RBI man will hit the MRI tube later today. For more on his injury, check out this earlier post.