Phil Hughes and stealing Game Three


(Alex Trautwig/Getty)

The season is not on the line tonight, but it might as well be. The Yankees are down two games to none in the best-of-seven ALCS, so a loss in Game Three tonight might as well be the final nail in the coffin. Yeah, a comeback is always possible, the Yankees and their fans know that first hand, but it would extremely unlikely. A baseball miracle if there ever was one.

The Yankees opted not to bring CC Sabathia back on short rest for the start tonight, meaning Phil Hughes will get the ball against Justin Verlander. It’s a matchup so lopsided that you hope the theory of “reverse lock” comes into play, and in fact the Yankees did win a Hughes-Verlander meeting in Comerica Park earlier this season. That was Phil’s complete game in early-June, his best start of the season. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean anything now as much as I wish it did.

“I don’t really feel like I can feel any added pressure just because of the circumstances,” said Hughes yesterday. “I just have to go out there and pitch, that’s all it boils down to, not really worry about being down 0-2; that Verlander is on the mound; that we don’t have our captain. Those sort of things are going to be wasted energy, and all I really want to focus on is the Detroit Tigers lineup and doing the absolute best job I can do … Obviously we don’t want to go into the series over there down 0-2, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. I just have to go into Detroit, put together a good start and trust our guys are going to score some runs. I do enjoy that pressure and the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Hughes turned in a rock solid start against the Orioles in the ALDS last week, allowing just one run while striking out eight in 6.2 innings. He was on nearly two weeks rest though, which may have put some life back into this right arm after throwing 191.1 innings in the regular season. If he turns in another performance like that against the Tigers tonight, the Yankees might lose. Their offense has been struggling that much and Verlander is that good. Hughes is really going to have to come up huge in what amounts to the second biggest start of his career behind Game Six of the 2010 ALCS.

One way or another, the Yankees have to win four of their next five games to advance to the World Series, and at least one of those four wins will have to come in a game started by Verlander. There’s no way around it. If they want to have a realistic chance at making this a competitive series, Hughes has to steal tonight’s game against Verlander and hand the ball off to Sabathia with a chance to tie things up tomorrow. The odds are against it and everyone is (really) down on the club right now, but stealing Game Three behind Phil would be a major lift going forward. Some much-needed faith would be restored.

Categories : Pitching, Playoffs


  1. Eddard says:

    I called my shot last night and said the Yankees would win the series but I don’t think they absolutely need to win this game to do it. CC, Andy, Kuroda and CC can win 4 in a row. Phil has already pitched well here and he’ll be less prone to the HR. I expect him to do well. It’s all about the offense coming out and getting a couple runs early on Verlander. If they get down early expect the same flailing hacks at the curve in the dirt.

  2. Drew says:

    I have phaith in Phil. Lets Go!

  3. Cris Pengiucci says:

    Hmmmm. Eddard not replying first to the post in what seems like forever. I was convinced you were handing him the stories ahead of time just to get things rolling.


    Phil has the right attitude for tonight’s game. Do you job and let the offense do theirs. I hope the hitters are up to the task.

  4. Regis says:

    Phil needs to throw a shutout for the Yankees to win.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      No, the offense simply needs to score more runs that the Tigers do, be that 1, 2 10 or 15 runs.

    • B-Rando says:

      I think going into the game with that kind of attitude for Phil will eventually doom him. He cant go into the game thinking he has to be nearly perfect to have a chance at winning.

      He at least said the right things meaning, he has to have faith his offense will score some runs, and he just needs to go out and execute.

  5. Mister D says:

    I’m suffering from complete apathy today. And not because I’m sooo mad at what this team is doing to ME or because I think they can’t win tonight or that they suck or that they’re quitters or anything like that, its just that the Jeter injury completely deflated me. I’m sure I’d bounce back if it got interesting, but that injury combined with a flat Game 2 has left me flat-lined.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      I feel pretty much the same way. I’ll watch tongiht, but won’t be quite as emotionally involved. Are there any professionals holding meetings to help people like us? :-)

    • Eddard says:

      It’s like they always say, the dawn is darkest before the rising sun. This leads me to believe that Ichiro will be the big hero today. If he can find a way on base he can wreck havoc with his speed. They haven’t put enough pressure on the pitchers with their speed. Gardner should play today as well.

    • Mike HC says:

      I’m definitely with you. The Jeter injury really deflated me too.

    • Robinson Tilapia (I Believe in Scoring Runs!) says:

      I’m not feeling deflated. I’m feeling like this could be a moment for Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez to step up and really contribute/not throw the ball into Hunts Point.

      I’ve convinced myself, however silly this may be, that I’d rather lose Jeter for a maximum 10 games than lose him for three months in June. No need to tell me that makes no sense. These are the mind games that get me by.

      This team overcame a lot of adversity this year. If they can’t make this final hurdle, it won’t make me think any less of what they did this year. That being said, add a couple of extra diamonds to that WS trophy before the Yanks hoist that sumbitch up at the end of all this.

      • YanksFan says:

        Losing Jeter hurts but look who won the game with the late hits for St. Louis vs. the Nats in Game 5. Frick and Frack may be more famous than the 2. I still don’t even know their names. We talk about stars but the NYY losses over the years have been to nobodies. Same with some of the other heroes in the playoffs.

        I’m rathter optimistic about this.

    • Drew says:

      So has this entire site become Derek Jeter fans and not Yankee fans? Its an injury, just like the ones to Mariano, Pineda, Pettite, Alex, Teix, Gardner, Joba etc. Just gotta keep moving forward. Yeah it sucks that Jeter isn’t there but it doesn’t mean anyone shouldn’t be as into the game bc one player isn’t. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but come on you gotta be there for your team!

      • Mister D says:

        If Jeter were sitting because he pulled a hamstring or something I’d just be pissed at the offense like everyone else, but it was the severity of the injury that really wiped me out. One of those things where, if Detroit wins, everyone will acknowledge that was the real end of the season but if someone speculates on that ahead of time, they’re called a quitter.

      • Mister D says:

        And really, I’m still going to be watching and I’ll still get excited or pissed off mid-game like normal, its just the all-day playoff excitement has been knocked out.

        • Exactly. I look forward to every playoff game, like some kid on Christmas morning. Even during tough series – down 3-1 to Texas I was pumped, the same down 2-0 to Oakland. This time it just feels different. It’s weird. I’ll be into once the game starts, but that all day anticipation just isn’t there.

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        Oh, I’m there for the team. However, the Core Four (or Five) is what once again got me to follow the team closely. I’ve always had favorite players, though. Munson, Mattingly, Bernie & The Four and there were other lesser players that I followed closely before Munson and at times between the others. (Lean times back then). Only Pettitte is left right now. It’s a sign that I’m aging, which I don’t care to fully acknowledge. I’m sure the feeling will pass, probably at the start of the game tonight.

    • Same here man. I’m usually a pretty optimistic fan but the Jeter injury was as deflating as it gets. I’m in such a funk over this whole thing. I’ve been trying to avoid people at the office so that I don’t have to talk about it, avoiding sportscenter and sports radio, etc. I’m dreading tonight’s game, but I know that I have to watch. Like you said, it’s not that I don’t think they can’ win or anything, but between the offesive problems, the bad calls, the bad atmosphere, tough losses, awful broadcasts, and Jeter injury, I just can’t remember a time when baseball just flat out wasn’t any fun. That being said, I still hold out hope that the bats wake up and get to Verlander. As awesome as he is, he does have tendancy to throw some clunkers. I think he had seven starts, where he gave up 4 earned runs or more.

      • dalelama says:

        You forgot the biggest reason—choke artistry.

        • Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

          Look who’s here!

        • jjyank (Phil Phucking Hugheslladay) says:

          Keeping it as fresh as ever.

          • Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

            As far as I’m concerned, this is all anyone needs to know about dalelama.


            His comments in that thread: 0

            • jjyank (Phil Phucking Hugheslladay) says:

              Hahaha. Well played.

            • Robinson Tilapia (I Believe in Scoring Runs!) says:

              I just read through ALL of that all over again. Thoughts:

              1) I’m actually very sad that I can’t claim to have commented there, under any screen name even though I’m sure I was lurking.

              2) Things were so much easier before Greg was born.


              4) The Howard Dean reference had me in stitches.

              5) Always surprises me to see how many of us were around three years ago. Surprises me even more to see how much in a better mood some folks were.

              • dalelama says:

                Many commentators on this site just can’t handle the reality of the lack of clutchness on this squad as I have pointed out all year. Don’t forget we have lost three true gamers from the 2009 squad (Damon, Matsui, & Posada) and have retained the chokemasters Tex, Cano, Swisher, and Aroid. Tex has started to come around only to be replaced by Granderson on the Not Ready for Prime-Time Dishonor Roll. Never have so many been paid so much to do so little.

  6. Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

    So this may be inaccurate, but I think the matchup with Verlander might be more conducive to the Yanks scoring a few runs than the past few games have been.

    I’m guessing that against the less cy-young worth guys, the Yanks figured their HR-first approach would be fine, and were swinging for the fences. Maybe against a guy like Verlander they’ll be more focused on working good at-bats and making solid contact, since they’ll probably be facing fewer mistake pitches.

    At least a guy can pray.


    • MannyGeee says:

      all of this.

      Also: since the Yankees made Anibel Sanchez look like Justin Verlander, they would in turn make Justin Verlander look like Anibel Sanchez?

      This is what I think should happen. Please please pretty please make this happen

  7. JohnC says:

    Verlander will start off the game throwing alot of curveballs and changeups, as he will be expecting the Yanks to sit on the fastball early, as he should. He won’t start dialing it up into the high 90s and triplle digits til later in the game, figuring he will lull them to sleep thinking about the off speed stuff.. Thats his strategy

  8. Mike HC says:

    Heard a stat on ESPN, not sure if it is accurate, but they claim no team with home field advantage (first 2 games at home) has ever come back from an 0-2 deficit … this really would be an epic comeback.

    • Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

      In the ALCS, specifically.

      The Yankees did it in 1996 against Atlanta in the World Series.

      • Mike HC says:

        Yea, good point. I had a feeling that stat was meaningless, ha

      • Buffalo Bill says:

        And did it having to beat Glavine, Neagle, Smoltz, and Maddux. This team is better offensively than that team was, and Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez ain’t no Braves rotation. That team won 1-0 games and 7-6 games. They benched key players (Boggs, O’Neill, Tino) and won with their back-ups (Fielder, Hayes, don’t even remember who played outfield for Paulie). They got some breaks. They had professional at bats. They grinded it out.

        This team doesn’t have Kenny Rogers mucking up the middle of the rotation, either. The precedent is set. GET IT DONE!

        • LarryM., Fl. says:

          That team had players with heart who did not throw in the towel. They found ways to win with good pitching and productive at bats.

          • Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

            This team has found ways to win all year. They’re in a funk; it happens.

            No one felt that way about the 1996 team until that comeback. We were absolutely miserable in games 1 and 2, we actually scored fewer runs in those games than we have in this series, and allowed way more.

            There were fewer signs for optimism 16 years ago than there are today.

            • This is what I keep thinking back to. They were brutal in those first two games. I believe they were outscored 16-1 in the two games, then never lost again while beating hall-of-fame quality pitchers.

          • Robinson Tilapia (I Believe in Scoring Runs!) says:

            This team has players with heart. As a matter of fact, if we’re going to talk “heart,” which is about as subjective as it gets, I’d say “heart” is getting in the way of them just trying to get the ball in play.

            Talking “heart” is silly, though. I go under the assumption that every person in uniform out there, for both teams, has “heart” to spare.

    • Bartolo's Colon says:

      1996 yankees need to have a word with espn

  9. Bartolo's Colon says:

    so hoping they can get a few quick runs off verlander to rattle him and boost the offense’s confidence. We win tonight, and we are right back in it, especially with the big man going tomorrow. also hope that joe is not terrified to use drob if we are down one run in the 8th. reminds me of his use of mo last year in the alds. mo was literally never sharper and threw all of 8 pitches the whole series. i think he got 4-5 outs and broke as many bats as well. at least he was very fresh for those acura commercials

  10. Darren says:

    Mike, don’t be such a negative Nancy!

    Look at what the team has done all year:

    1. Beat back a tenacious and “magical” Orioles team to win the AL East by 2 games by overcoming many issues that would devastate a team without as much heart, soul and grit.

    2. Yankees had a league leading GARS (Grit Above Red Sox) of 69 (dirty uniforms x bruised elbows x injuries x blisters).

    3. MAJOR LEAGUE LEADING come from behind wins* (accoridng to TBS/FOx – may be innacurate or refer to some other year, unclear)

    4. Overcame the following:

    -freak injury to the emotional soul/post season Zeus of the team
    -horrible RISPY fail
    -injuries to the ace
    -injury to Andy’s Ankle* (original title of Lou Reed song “Andy’s Chest”)
    -injuries to the star first baseman; star third baseman
    -watched the starting left fielder go down for the year
    -more freak injuries to beloved goofball reliver

    3. Why don’t you think we can win ONE GAME against Verlander? Phil is saying the right things. Ahnuld just told me “You can do it!!”

    4.This team does not quit. Everyone looks calm, from Phil to Girardi to Derek to Grandy to Arod (macking on muscular honeys in the middle of a game, I love it.)

    5. I just bought two tickets to Game 6 on Saturday. Clinching Game 6. For the Yankees.

    Y’all better believe. Word on the street is that the Yankees all read this blog and get a kick out of it but they reallyt are sensitive and want to make sure we KNOW they can do it.

    Ok? OK!


  11. mustang says:

    1- Hughes in that ballpark they can use the better defender.

    2- Gardner’s numbers (small sample) are better than Swisher (larger sample) vs. Verlander.

    3- Gardner’s speed on the bases may help this team score some runs.

    3- Swisher made the move easier with the public comments about the fans. If he is worry about what the fans are saying rather than his shit game he might need to take a seat.

    The only con is Gardner’s lack of AB’s, but at this point does it really matter can he be any worse than Swisher?

    • mustang says:

      I would be shocked if Gardner is not in for Swisher because:

      1- Hughes in that ballpark they can use the better defender.

      2- Gardner’s numbers (small sample) are better than Swisher (larger sample) vs. Verlander.

      3- Gardner’s speed on the bases may help this team score some runs.

      3- Swisher made the move easier with the public comments about the fans. If he is worry about what the fans are saying rather than his shit game he might need to take a seat.

      The only con is Gardner’s lack of AB’s, but at this point does it really matter can he be any worse than Swisher?

      • Robinson Tilapia (I Believe in Scoring Runs!) says:

        If you can suddenly pinch-hit for Alex like there’s a clearance sale on pinch-hitting, you can try Gardner for a game for Swisher. Sure.

        • mustang says:


          And if you can sit Wade Boggs for Charlie Hayes why not this (LOL) trying to channel the spirit of 1996.

        • MannyGeee says:

          pinch hit all the non hitters! Chavez for A-Rod, Gardner for Granderson, Ibanez for Swisher… Nunez for Canoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! Its like Crazy Eddies in this bitch.


      • LennonJames says:

        What were Swisher’s comments about the fans? I missed them.

          • LennonJames says:

            Much Obliged!

          • LennonJames says:

            I think those comments, and that article, are a perfect example of what’s wrong with some of these guys offensively. How childish is it to snub (by his standards) the Creatures just because people are frustrated with your play? To me there is an obvious selfishness throughout this team. Each guy wanting to be the hero. Each guy wanting to be showered with love and appreciation. Each guy more concerned with their own numbers (I assume) than the teams.

            Swisher has made it ridiculously easy to see him go. I respect that he is a human being with sensitivities, but it’s hard to feel bad for a guy whose work uniform holds the most wildly recognized team logo on the planet. A lot of us spend our entire work day thinking about getting home so that we can watch his. Forgive us if we get frustrated seeing you struggle so mightily.

    • Bartolo's Colon says:

      I say they play gardner too. his defense is worth a lot, especially if they play him in center, which im sure they won’t, unless of course they sit grandy. additionally he could very well get on base with a bunt or infield single. and he can steal! make it happen joe

  12. toad says:

    Some positives:

    1. Winning this game means much more than winning down 0-2 in other circumstances. You beat their ace, and have yours in the next game.

    2. Verlander is 1-1 against the Yankees this year, with a 3.10 ERA and 1.475 WHIP. The Yankees put up an OPS of .859 against him. Small sample? Sure, but it’s what we have. He’s a fine pitcher, but the guy is not untouchable.

    3. While I think momentum is overrated in sports, a win here would surely provide a big psychological boost.

  13. JJ says:

    This has really been the strangest / craziest MLB playoffs in quite some time. If that meme is going to continue, Hughes is going to out pitch Verlander. I know sounds crazy…but would it be stranger than Cano having an 0-26 streak?

    • Eddard says:

      It’s strange because this offense was one of the best in baseball all year and wasn’t even fully healthy that much and they’ve been shut down all postseason. They’ve really only had 2 good innings, 9th inning vs Johnson and 9th inning vs Valverde. And it’s not like they’re facing Johnson and Schilling or Pedro and Beckett. It has to turn around and it will starting tonight.

      • dalelama says:

        It is called choking under pressure.

        • Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

          Guess there wasn’t any pressure at the end of the regular season. Because boy, then there’s no way we would have even made the playoffs!

          We’re lucky you’re here to keep us all straight.

    • MannyGeee says:

      “I know sounds crazy…but would it be stranger than Cano having an 0-26 streak?”

      And stranger than strange?? Verlander dating Kate Moss while A-Rod is scooping up mediocre (at best) scraps at the stadium during a game…

  14. Mickey McMick says:

    Yes Yankee Balls:

    “I have phaith in Phil. Lets Go!”

    “Fuck that. They can even lose tomorrow and come back and win 4.01 games.”

    No Yankees Balls:

    “Yeah, a comeback is always possible, the Yankees and their fans know that first hand, but it would extremely unlikely.”

    ” ….. that injury combined with a flat Game 2 has left me flat-lined.”

    Yes Yankee Balls:

    “I bet if I took a nap right now, Jeter would come to me in a dream use his calm but steely eyes to inspire me to watch really hard tonight.”

    No Yankee Balls:

    “I’ll watch tongiht, but won’t be quite as emotionally involved.”

    So this one of those moments, folks. You either gird up your Yankeee balls or go and be Mets fans. Your choice.

    Hughes pitches lights out, CC dominates, Andy kills it, CC destroys, Kuroda hovers like a 2-ton wasp to come out of the pen Soriano spits and burns, Cano slams three, A-rod has one last fiery stand, Grandy gets 6 RBI in one game, Ichiro puts down his bat, picks up a Samuri sword and hacks through the Detroit pitching staff.

    Yankee Balls.

  15. Luisergi says:

    If the yankees win tonight, they’ll win the World Series.

  16. mitch says:

    The yanks have a 37% chance to win tonight according to vegas…not exactly a miracle on ice situation.

  17. Nuke laHughes says:

    I’m just happy to be here and I hope I can help the ball club.
    I just want to give it my best shot and the good lord willing everything will work out.

  18. Andrew says:

    It all boils down to what kind of fan you are. When the team is down and looks like there is no way they can win, am I still a fan? When the heart and soul goes down for the count do I go down with him? The Yankees have won 27 World Series Titles. Since acquiring Babe Ruth in 1920, the Yankees have appeared in the World Series in every decade since the 1920s. The team next in line with WS titles is the Cardinals with 10. Don’t count the Yankees out!

  19. Darren says:

    We survived Tim Belcher, we can survive Game 3 of the ALCS.

  20. Bartolo's Colon says:

    not sure if this means much, but verlander has not faced an above average offense (wOBA) in over a month. that was the angels and he got beat up pretty bad. the yankees were at the top of that list in 2012, but not sure if that means much given what their offense has been playing like lately

  21. jjyank (Phil Phucking Hugheslladay) says:

    I believe in Phil Hughes.

  22. The Guns of Navarone says:

    A wise man once said you can’t predict baseball, but that’s not true. I can predict baseball.

    Tonight, the Yankees will actually score a few runs off Verlander early, which at the time will seem like a series-changing accomplishment. But they’ll lose anyway when Verlander shuts them down in the middle innings while Hughes gives it up and doesn’t get past the fifth. So, the one game the bats actually do something… the pitching won’t hold up. That’s the way it goes when things are going bad.

    Bookmark this comment.

    • Jim Is Bored(Hughes the man?!) says:

      Don’t worry, I already did.

      And when the Yankees win, I’m never letting you forget it. Ever. Every comment you ever make, I will reference this comment and how wrong you were.

      Or I probably won’t because no one cares when people predict things on the internet.

  23. mullkj830 says:

    The Yankees have beat Verlander 2 out of 3 this year. And I also believe they beat him 2 or 3 times last season. I have this strange feeling that they are going to beat him tonight

  24. Yank The Frank says:

    Verlander may give them their mojo back. All playoffs everyone looks like they are swinging for the fences, they no they can’t do that against Verlander so maybe they shorten up their swings and start grinding.
    Be the ball.

  25. Robinson Tilapia (I Believe in Scoring Runs!) says:

    Well I just made plans to watch the game with the same friend I watched the final game of the 2009 WS with. I think that’s a goddamn sign.

  26. Tino!_24 says:

    Hughs has been around the block in all kinds of big game/playoff situations. he is un-phased by the situation so that is a plus.
    D-Rob and Soriano are rested.
    The Tigers had their struggles this year and they were down right lucky the first 2 games in that those games were handed to them. It’s time for the momentum to shift.
    Where is the boss when you need him? Seriously – the yanks need to show some fight – now that their only true fighter is out. Who is their leader? Someone has to step up and fire up the team. This team wins on talent/high paid superstars (baltimore 25 million payroll and look what they did!) but do they have heart?
    Now they have to win on heart. We will see if they have one tonight. Money can’t buy it.

  27. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Poor Phranchise:

    “not really worry about being down 0-2; that Verlander is on the mound; that we don’t have our captain”

    He’s either a machine or crying when nobody is looking.

  28. TrueBlue says:

    -Getting away from the Stadium is a plus.
    -The bats will come back, they just can’t stay this dead.
    -A win today, hanging 5 or 6 on the board will be as much a boon to the psyche of the Yanks as it will be a blow to Detroit with CC going tomorrow night.

  29. David K. says:

    Phil Hughes can be great or terrible. Let’s hope the great one shows tonight. As for scoring, well, that I have even less faith in then in Hughes.

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