Whenever you’re facing an ace like Seattle’s Cliff Lee — whether you’re the ’62 Mets or the defending champ Yanks — a win won’t be an easy thing to come by. Unsurprisingly, then, Seattle beat the Yankees 7-4 last night although I’d hardly classify Cliff Lee as having been as sharp as I expected. He did pitch his third consecutive complete game and he was effective and efficient when he had to be but the Yanks still managed four extra-base hits (2 HR/2 2B) of the eight hits Lee allowed.
The real culprits in last night’s loss were Phil Hughes’s ineffectiveness and the nagging problem of Yankee impatience at the plate. I’ll try to briefly cover both issues:
1) Phil Hughes. Although it was his first loss in six starts and only the second loss on the year, Hughes’s performance against the Mariners was fairly putrid. The seven runs allowed (six earned) were the most he’s given up in 2010 and the most since allowing eight runs against the Orioles at Camden Yards on 5/9/09 (a game that both Corey and I attended).
It’s hard to know exactly what went wrong for Hughes last night (5.2 10 7 6 2 3) or, really, over the past four starts (24.1 31 18 17 7 17) although the overall picture is still solid. Even with his poor start last night and recent bout of ineffectiveness, Hughes’s ERA sits at 3.58 (3.40 FIP). The metrics indicate that there’s no reason to believe Hughes will fall off much beyond where he is now and my hope is only that some form of a “Hughes Rules” won’t destroy him the way it played a part in destroying a certain other young pitcher (whose name I don’t intend to ever speak again).
2) Lack of patience. Last night’s game was frustrating in that individual Yankee batters seem to no longer work pitchers into deep counts as often as they used to. While that may only be my impression and unsubstantiated by actual numbers, I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen too many impatient AB’s this year. Of the nine Yankees batters last night, four — Jeter, Teixeira, Huffman and Cervelli — saw a total of 35 pitches in their combined 15 plate appearances (2.33 P/PA).
While one might expect very little from the bottom of the lineup (and rightly so), Jeter’s lack of patience in 2010 has been alarming. At this point several Yankee blogs have covered Jeter’s uneven 2010 campaign so there’s no sense in rehashing what we already know other than to say that Jeter is seeing 3.54 P/PA in 2010, his lowest figure since 2004 (also 3.54). Perhaps not coincidentally, Jeter posted his career-worst mark in OBP which, if things don’t change in 2010, will be “bested” by his current .346 OBP (vs. career .386 mark).