Phil Hughes announced his presence with authority last night, working a 1-2-3 first inning that concluded with strikeouts of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, both swinging through fastballs. He then stranded two runners in the second and got out of a runners-on-the-corners, no-out jam in the third by striking out Jones and Markakis again, the latter in conjunction with Kevin Cash throwing out Brian Roberts stealing.
Meanwhile, the Yankees built a 5-0 lead against Jeremy Guthrie on a Johnny Damon walk and a Mark Teixeira double in the first, consecutive solo homers by Nick Swisher (his first at the new stadium), Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera leading off the second, and a pair of walks and an RBI single by Cano in the third.
Hughes gave two of those runs back in the fourth on a Melvin Mora single and a Ty Wigginton homer and another in the fifth on a solo shot by Jones, but while he didn’t cure his recent gopheritis, he did set a career high with nine strikeouts—eight of them swinging, most of them on fastballs, but three on curveballs—while walking just one.
Hughes threw 89 pitches through five innings and Joe Girardi decided to hand the 5-3 lead to Alfrede Aceves at that point. Ace pitched around a pair of singles for two scoreless frames and Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined for a scoreless eighth. Then the Yankees dropped a six-spot on Danys Baez and Jamie Walker, blowing the game open late just as they had the night before. Since he was warm and had thrown just three pitches in the eighth, Girardi left Rivera in to mop up in the ninth, which he did, but not before giving up a solo homer to dead center by rookie Nolan Reimold. Final score: 11-4 Yankees.
That’s eight straight wins by the Yanks, who are now just 2.5 games behind the Blue Jays (who lost another to the Red Sox) in the East.
Girardi said the team would likely make a decision on Wang (and thus Hughes) tomorrow, but the skipper was pleased with the progess Hughes has made in his last two starts, which at least bodes well for Hughes chances at a return engagement should he find himself starting for Scranton in five days.
Your turn, Joba . . .