The Phil Hughes and Chien-Ming Wang show hit the field again last night. Wang went five good enough innings, and Hughes came in for a two-inning relief cameo. He turned in a now-familiar line: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K. He threw first-pitch strikes to all six batters he faced.
For Hughes, this outing marked another in a series of stellar relief appearances. He has now thrown 10.2 innings out of the pen and has allowed just two earned runs. Opponents have just five hits off of the Yanks’ youngster, and he has struck out 14 while waking two. The drubbing he suffered at the hands of the Orioles in early May is but a memory.
With this latest appearance, Hughes’ numbers now don’t even require us to take out that disastrous 1.2 innings in Maryland to look good. He has thrown 45.1 innings and has allowed 42 hits. He has given up 17 walks while striking out 45. His ERA is down to 4.57. (Without that bad outing, his ERA sits at 3.09.) He has been, in other words, as good as advertised a few years ago.
The other half of his pitching partnership hasn’t been as good this month. After a horrendous April and three relief appearances, Chien-Ming Wang has tried to find himself in the starting rotation. The results are decidedly mixed. He needed just 62 pitches to make it through five innings against the Braves but didn’t have his best location. Since returning to the rotation, he has made four starts spanning just 17.1 innings. He has given up 24 hits and 14 earned runs for an ERA of 7.27. It’s an improvement over his 34.50 mark from April, but it’s not quite what we expect or need from the 0-6 Wang.
It would seem, then, that the Yankees will soon be faced with a decision. Do they stick with Wang and continue to ride out this winless streak of ineffectiveness and inconsistency? Do they turn the ball over to Hughes and look to see if the confidence and mentality he has shown out of the pen can translate into success over six or seven innings as a starter? It’s a quite the conundrum. They need Wang to pitch well, and they need to straighten out his problems. But as Joe said in the recap, more Phil Hughes please.
For now, the Yankees do not actually need to answer this question. Hughes will have to shadow CC Sabathia and his sore bicep until at least Friday, and the Yankees seem committed to letting Wang toss in the pitcher-happy haven that is Citi Field. I’m OK with that for this week, but one of these pitchers is making a case for himself. It’s not the one getting the ball in the first inning every five days, and we can’t ignore that reality, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.