Well, that’s one way to limit Phil Hughes’ innings.
Like lions attacking a herd of wildebeests (or whatever it is that lions attack herds of), the Blue Jays have spent this series picking off the Yankees’ young – first Ivan Nova, who was good but not quite good enough to escape two nights ago, and now Phil Hughes, who was less good. The Yankees were behind the entire game and lost 6-3 but, thanks to the Angels’ 12-3 thrashing of the Rays, remain in a tie atop the AL East.
There’s been much discussion of Hughes’ unspecified innings limit recently, and so it would, in a sense, be nice that he pitched less than four innings tonight – except that he threw 106 pitches in those three and two thirds innings, his shortest outing of the year. They were fairly high stress, and definitely frustrating, as over and over again he got a batter to two strikes before eventually allowing a hit. According to Girardi after the game, 3.2 innings is still just 3.2 innings, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Neither does bringing in Javy Vazquez in relief – it would, except I thought the whole issue was he had a dead arm and needed rest, and I don’t see how pitching 4.1 innings on short notice is going to enliven said arm. I assume the Yankee trainers know more about this than I do, so probably it’s fine… but then again with an off-day tomorrow, why push your luck? The Yankees don’t necessarily need Hughes and Vazquez at their best to have some postseason success this year, but it’s hard to see them getting far without at least one of them. Anyway, the good news is Vazquez pitched well (maybe his arm is only mostly dead?), allowing just one run, on an Aaron Hill homer, and finishing out the game.
Meanwhile, Jays starter Brett Cecil is not this good – at least, not against any other team. As the guys at River Ave Blues point out, he’s now got a 1.64 ERA against the Yanks, and a 4.21 ERA against non-Yankees. Whether that’s because he’s doing something particularly effective against the Bombers, or an accident of small sample size, I can’t really say, but in any case he was effective again tonight, allowing seven hits and two walks, but limiting the damage to two runs over eight innings. The Yankees got two runs in the fourth, when Robinson Cano doubled and Marcus Thames, batting right behind him, homered; they tacked on one more in the ninth, when Eduardo Nunez singled home Austin Kearns. It was a short-lived rally, and the Yankees head into their needed off-day still perched on top of the standings, but a bit battered- Nick Swisher’s knee is hurting now, hence his absence from tonight’s lineup.
The Yankees still have two series to play against the Blue Jays, one home and one, the last of the season, back in Toronto. So you haven’t seen the last of these guys. Presumably the Yankees and their coaches will be watching a lot of Brett Cecil video between now and then.