Derek Jeter set the tone right from the first pitch. The Cap’n drove Justin Verlander’s first offering of Sunday afternoon over the right field wall for a leadoff homer, the fifth straight (and sixth in the last seventh) time the Yankees have scored a first inning run off the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP award winner. It was all Phil Hughes after that. Let’s recap…
- St. Phil: Coming off a total dud in his backyard, Hughes threw the first nine-inning complete game of his career and completely manhandled the Tigers’ hitters with almost entirely fastballs — 99 fastballs, 18 curves, five changeups, one cutter. He surrendered three singles and one solo homer (an understandable shot by Prince Fielder), striking out eight. Two of those eight were the great Miguel Cabrera swinging, including once on three pitches. Nine dominant innings against an expected top-tier contender? Brilliance.
- Five Runs: Jeter set the tone and the Yankees were all over Verlander early on. They pushed another run across in the first inning on Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly and two innings later Alex Rodriguez crushed a mammoth solo homer off the brick beyond the left-center field wall, his second homer of the series and fourth in the last ten games. Robinson Cano’s run-scoring triple turned into an impromptu inside-the-park homer due to some defensive hilarity in the fifth, giving the Yankees a comfortable 5-1 lead. I have no idea how that ball wasn’t caught honestly, it hung up there forever. No complaints though.
- More Phil: By Game Score (80), this was the second best start of the Phil’s career behind an eight-inning gem in Texas back in 2009. His final pitch — career-high number 123 — clocked in at 93.4 mph according to PitchFX and better than his game average (92.79 mph). The only two batters he allowed to make it beyond first base were Fielder on the homer and Cabrera in the first inning, courtesy of a passed ball that should have been scored a wild pitch. The Tigers never had more than one runner on-base at a time and Hughes retired 14 of the final 16 men he faced. Twenty-two of his 27 outs were recorded on the infield.
- Leftovers: Not to rain on the parade, but the Yanks went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, with the one being Cano’s triple … Eric Chavez had two singles the other way and should have had a double as well, but Don Kelly made a great running catch on the warning track … Jeter and A-Rod each had a single and a homer, plus Curtis Granderson (double), Nick Swisher, and Russell Martin (double) each drew a walk and had a base knock … Martin lined into an inning-ending double play in the fourth that would have resulted in two runs … Hughes has allowed a homer in all 11 starts this year and is nine short of the all-time record for consecutive starts with a dinger (20 by Burt Blyleven) … the Yankees went 6-3 on the nine-game road trip and could have gone 8-1 with slightly better luck in the two walk-off losses … I’m pretty sure this was the most satisfying win of the year so far.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are off on Monday — draft day! — before returning home for the first time in nearly two weeks. They’re one game back of the Rays in the loss column and welcome Tampa to the Bronx for three games starting Tuesday. Andy Pettitte and Jamie Shields get the ball in the opener of the biggest series of the season to date.