Obviously, the story of this game is Phil Hughes.
In the spirit of full disclosure, in terms of access to this game, this is all I had this evening:
1. I heard the bottom of the 2nd inning on the radio (via WCBS 880 AM).
2. Via the coverage on YES, I picked up the action in the top of the 3rd inning when Abreu struck out (and then Nady singled to center, etc.) and watched it through the completion of the bottom of the 3rd inning.
3. I tuned back into the game, on YES, just as Abreu hit the grand slam in the top of the 10th inning – and then watched the YES coverage through the end of the game (including the post-game coverage).
Now, back to Hughes…you could make a strong case that this was the best game that Phil Hughes has ever thrown in the major leagues. At the least, it was the first time that Hughes has ever gone 8 innings in a big league game…and that’s a fact.
Again, I didn’t see much of his pitching. However, on the radio, when I was listening, Suzyn Waldman talked a lot on how Mike Mussina got on Hughes about the use of his curveball. As she told it, Moose asked Hughes how often he threw the curve in his last game – and Phil told Mike that he thought it was something like seven times. To this, reportedly, Mussina told Hughes that he should try throwing the curve more often – like seven times an inning (rather than seven times a game). As Waldman spun it, Moose told Hughes that using the deuce only when he was ahead 1-2 or 0-2 allowed hitters to sit on it…and get a good whack at it. And, the recommendation was to throw the curve early in the count for a change. And, during the YES coverage that I saw, Al Leiter also talked about Hughes throwing the curve more often – in order to be successful.
Now, does this all mean that Phil Hughes has arrived?
Let me put it this way…besides this evening, Phil Hughes has thrown seven innings in a major league only once…and that was just about one year ago from this time – on September 27, 2007. That game was a lot like this one…in the sense that the Yankees were playing with a “garbage time” line-up.
Today, the Yankees started Brett Gardner in center, Wilson Betemit at third, Cody Ransom at short, Juan Miranda at first and Chad Moeller at catcher. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez did not play.
In that game where Hughes did well last year, the Yankees started Bronson Sardinha in right, Wilson Betemit at third, Alberto Gonzalez at short, Shelley Duncan at first and Jose Molina at catcher. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez did not play.
Granted, the Yankees faced good pitchers in both these games – A.J. Burnett tonight and Scott Kazmir back on September 27, 2007. However, clearly, both tonight’s game and the one from last year had a “Spring Training” feel to them.
Therefore, just as September 27, 2007 was not a sign that Phil Hughes had arrived and was ready to star in 2008, tonight’s game is not a sign that Phil Hughes had arrived and was ready to star in 2009. Why? It’s just not the same pitching in a game like this, or the one from 2007, as it is during a game that “counts.”
And, anyone who wants to believe that this the launching point for Hughes in terms of being someone who can help the Yankees next season is still dealing more from a position of hope rather than from one of solid evidence.