Phil Hughes 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K
Joba Chamberlain 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Mariano Rivera 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
The turning point of the game came in the first inning. Hughes started each of his first four batters with balls, mostly fastballs that just missed outside. He got the first two to fly out, but Victor Martinez ripped a two-out double to right field and Ryan Garko battled to draw a seven-pitch walk on a questionable ball four on the inside corner. Jhonny Peralta then battled Hughes as well, taking to a 1-1 count, then fouling off three straight pitches. With two on and two out, the outcome of Peralta's at-bat looked like it might set the tone for the night with the Yankees having gone down in order to Fausto Carmona in the top of the first. Hughes, who had stuck mostly to his fastball to that point, mixing in a pair of curve balls, broke off an absolutely nasty slider that appeared to head right toward Peralta's belt before making a sharp right turn back over the plate for strike three. Alex Rodriguez led off the next inning with a second-pitch home run to dead center and that was that. The Yankees added one here and another there to run their tally to six, while the Indians lone score was a Josh Barfield solo homer off Hughes in the fifth.
I literally got chills watching Hughes carve up the Indians last night with well-located fastballs in the low-90s, off-the-table 12-to-6 curveballs in the low-70s, and the occasional low-80s slider or changeup. Hughes was throwing all four pitches for strikes and, much like in his aborted Mayday no-hitter in Texas, looked every bit like the ace he's projected to be. Chamberlain, who threw easy heat in the high-90s and that nasty corkscrewing slider that dives at the feet of lefthanders, looked to be nearly Hughes equal in relief of his fellow 21-year-old.
Unfortunately, the Yankees will have to pick their spots with Chamberlain, who is a young starter pushing his innings limit for the season. Right now it looks like they might try to get a couple innings from him every other day, which would keep him on a start/throw day schedule. However, both Chamberlain and Hughes should be members of the Opening Day rotation next spring. The mere thought quickens my pulse.
Returning to the present, the Tigers and Mariners both lost last night, putting the Yankees in a virtual tie with Seattle for the Wild Card lead (a game behind in the loss column) a game ahead of Detroit.
In other news, Joe Torre served his one-game suspension last night and Roger Clemens declined to appeal his five-gamer, which thus began last night. The thinking behind Clemens decision was surely that the start he'll miss now will come against the Orioles, the worst team the Yankees will face over the next 19 games. Chien-Ming Wang has been moved up a day to take Clemens' spot on Monday (he'll be on full rest due to Thursday's off day). The Tuesday start against the O's will then be taken by a spot starter, with Jeff Karstens and Ian Kennedy, who has dominated in three starts for triple-A Scranton, being the leading candidates.
Final note, the entire Indians team wore number 14 last night in honor of Larry Doby, who broke the American League's color line in 60 years ago, less than three months after Jackie Robinson did the same in the National League. I'm not sure why they chose August 10 (Doby's first game was July 5 in Chicago, his birthday was Dec. 13, and he died four years ago on June 18). Perhaps the date was chosen to use the high profile matchup with the Yankees to bring added attention to their recognition of a player whose been somewhat slighted by history.