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The Kid Stays In The Picture
2008-09-25 01:33
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.
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Last night's pitching matchup of Phil Hughes and likely free agent A.J. Burnett almost felt like an open audition for a spot in the Yankees 2009 rotation. I'm happy to report, Phil Hughes passed the audition. Hughes had a nasty curve working last night and used it to great effect, neutralizing yet another dominant outing against the Yankees by Burnett. After lasting just four inefficient innings in his return to the majors his last time out, Hughes stretched 100 pitches (71 of them strikes) across eight full innings, striking out six (all on curveballs), walking none, and allowing just two runs on five hits. Hughes was actually beating Burnett 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Scott Rolen shot a 1-1 curve over the wall in left center to knot it up at 2-2. Hughes, who was hoping to pick up his only major league win of the season, was furious at himself for allowing Toronto to tie the game, but settled down to retire the next four batters and pass the game to the bullpen.

After Jesse Carlson and Jose Veras swapped zeros in the ninth, Juan Miranda, who started at first and picked up his first major league hit in the fourth, led off the tenth with a double. Chad Moeller failed to bunt Miranda to third, but wound up working an eight-pitch walk, passing the buck to Brett Gardner, who bunted the runners up on the first try. Carlson hit Robinson Cano with his next offering to load the bases, and Bobby Abreu cashed it all in with a grand slam that handed the Yankees a 6-2 win. Sidney Ponson, of all people, pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the tenth to seal the deal.

"One good outing isn't going to erase an awful season with injuries and being in the minor leagues," said Hughes, "but it's good to end on a positive note and carry that over into next year." Hughes didn't get the win, but he shaved 1.3 runs off his season ERA. He finishes the year having thrown just 69 2/3 innings between the majors and minors and will go on to pitch in the Arizona Fall League in order to get his innings total up to a higher baseline for next season, though he's unlikely to get past 100 innings all together, even with the AFL work.

Still, Hughes looked great last night. Joe Girardi said, "he did everything right tonight." His curveball, which is his put-away pitch, was monstrous, and the cutter he developed this summer is already rivaling his four-seamer. When Hughes is able to locate the latter, he should be able to dominate the way we've all expected him to, which was exactly the case last night. Phil Hughes needed that start, and the Yankees needed that start. True, one good outing won't erase the lost season that preceded it, but it served an important reminder that Hughes is still one of the top pitching prospects in the game.

Comments
2008-09-25 05:46:58
1.   ChrisS
Where did this team come from?

Winners of, what, 11 of their last 12?

2008-09-25 05:55:20
2.   tommyl
1 Yeah, we may end up winning 90 games now, which in most years would be enough for the wildcard, if not the division. The East this year is just a beast. I think Hank is a complete blowhard but he got that right. If you look at the rest of the AL against AL East teams, the only teams with a winning record are Cleveland and the Angels. Every other team is well below .500. Hell, BP has Toronto at #4 or 5 or so on their hitlist and Sheehan claims that the AL East has 4 of the top 8 teams in baseball. Sometimes its just not your year.
2008-09-25 06:02:36
3.   OldYanksFan
Yes. This shitty, underachieving, heartless team has more Wins, against tougher competition, then that 1996 WS team... and almost as many Wins and that really good 2005 team.
2008-09-25 06:18:18
4.   willdthrill
It's crazy how emotionally invested you get into certain players. When I tuned into the game at the bottom of the seventh and saw Philly Phranchise still pitching with a 2-1 lead, it was like the Yanks had clinched the division! I watched the game until he got pulled, I guess Phil Hughes is now my favorite Yankees player.
2008-09-25 06:25:19
5.   tommyl
3 Yup, and much better than the 2000 incarnation. The offense underperformed this year, but its not a bad team, its just that the Rays got so much better in so short a time they overtook us. Put us in the NL, and we'd be mopping the floor on our way to a division title.
2008-09-25 06:27:40
6.   Bob B
Nice watching the Met's implode without Wilie to blame.
2008-09-25 06:32:06
7.   Shaun P
5 The big mistake would be to assume that they can just bring everyone back, add CC, and they'll be fine next year. That won't do at all. Fortunately, Cashman is smarter than that.

6 How funny would it be if the Mets not only miss the playoffs, again, but the Yanks finish with a better record?

2008-09-25 06:59:37
8.   ms october
obviously we are mostly talking about the notion that the al east is a tough division to get a playoff spot out of because of the strength of the teams in this division- but in terms of records, the yanks have a respectable intra-division record at 38-30, with 4 games left; al central 21-19; al west 18-14; and inter-league at 10-8.
before the season, i though the yanks would need to rack up a lot of wins against against the al central, the inter-league and the non-anaheim portion of the al west (they did with sea and oak).
because the strength of the al east isn't going to change that drastically next year, they again are going to have to try to pick up these wins out of the division and hope for a better outcome against the crappy teams.
now scoring more runs and having a better rotation will help, but that's for another day.
2008-09-25 08:15:42
9.   Bob B
7 What makes you think Cashman is smarter than that? IMHO he is, at best, a mediocre GM. And I don't even think he is mediocre.
2008-09-25 08:38:32
10.   OldYanksFan
7 I am certainly NOT advocating bringing everyone back. I am railing against what I see on many blogs and I believe is a knee-jerk reaction to this years (and past years) disappointments. CLEAN House! Dump the old guys. Dump the underperformers! Dump the heartless! Trade Lazy Cano! Trade no-franchise Phil! Get a bag of ball for IPK while he has any value! Trade Melky for Manny's jockstrap!

Our goal is not about age or declining vets. It's about putting the best team on the field in 2009, given the variables of FAs and trades, while maintaining the probability that this team will be even better in 2010.. and beyond. It is about building for another era, not just 2009.

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