For the second straight start, Phil Hughes allowed five runs in six innings despite allowing only four hits. In Anaheim last week it was because he walked five and Luis Vizcaino allowed both of Hughes’ bequeathed runners to score. In Detroit yesterday, Hughes walked only one, but allowed three home runs which plated all five baserunners.
Only two of those homers were really Hughes’ mistake, however, as Curtis Granderson led off the game by slicing a pitch down the line in left where Hideki Matsui made a vain attempt to make a running catch, allowing the ball to skip by him and ricochet into the roomy depths of Comerica Park’s left field as Granderson came all the way around with an inside-the-park home run. The two-run homers by Carlos Guillen later that inning and Marcus Thames in the third, however, were simply a case of Hughes throwing a couple of fat fastballs right over the plate. Hughes, who allowed just six home runs in 275 career minor league innings, has now allowed five in 38 2/3 major league innings. Of course, Granderson’s homer was a fluke, but those homers have called attention to the fact that the ground-ball tendencies Hughes showed in the minors (2.35 groundouts per flyout in his eight minor league starts this season) have decreased in the majors (0.84 GB/FB).
That last stat is a bit misleading, as Hughes has really been all over the map, showing strong groundball tendencies in his first two starts before his hamstring injury (2.14 GB/FB) as well as in his last start in Anaheim (3:1), but occasionally extreme fly ball tendencies in his other four big league starts, topping out with his 1:11 GB/FB ratio yesterday. It could be that Hughes has been a bit tentative since coming off the DL and isn’t getting on top enough on his pitches to get them low enough in the zone (his splits before and after his DL stint are rather telling, with him posting a 0.61 GB/FB ratio since and the above 2.14 ratio before). Or, given his strong groundball rate in Anaheim, there could be something else going on. Either way, it bares watching as Hughes’ dominance is tied to the fact that he keeps the ball in front of his outfielders.
As for the game, despite the fact that Detroit’s rookie starter Jair Jurrjens (whose name, it turns out, is pronounced exactly like it’s spelled) had to leave due to a sharp pain in his shoulder after giving up a solo home run to Jason Giambi with one out in the second inning, the Yankees couldn’t overcome those five runs allowed by Hughes. Robinson Cano added a three-run dinger off emergency reliever Chad Durbin in the fourth, but over the last 4 2/3 innings Bobby Seay, Joel Zumaya, and Todd Jones held the Yanks to just an opposite-field Giambi single in the ninth.
And so the Yankees lost 5-4 and have to somehow win tonight’s matchup between Mike Mussina and Justin Verlander to leave Detroit with a split.