It's just been that kind of year for the New York Yankees.
The Bombers bust out with ten runs against the Rangers last night, driving Kameron Loe from the game in the fifth. Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano had the big days, both picking up a pair of doubles (the Yanks had six on the night), Jorge going 3 for 4 with a walk, 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored, Cano going 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Every Yankee starter reached base at least once. That includes the slumping Bobby Abreu (1 for 6), who moved to the leadoff spot in place of Johnny Damon, who got an extra day off following four chiropractic sessons and says he's feeling great, and Doug Mientkiewicz (1 for 5, RBI).
While all that was going on, Phil Hughes was carving up the Texas Rangers' lineup in just his second major league start. Hughes walked Kenny Lofton to start the game after getting ahead of him 0-2, but erased him on a double play off the bat of Michael Young and struck out Mark Teixeira. In the second, he walked Hank Blalock only to erase him on a double play as well, this one off the bat of the hot-hitting Ian Kinsler. Hughes didn't allow a ball out of the infield until Blalock's fly out for the second out of the fifth, and faced the minimum until he walked Kinsler following Blalock's fly out. Along the way he simply dominated. He started the second by striking out Victor Diaz (just called up from triple-A to take the place of the just-DLed Frank Catalanotto) on a wicked curve ball that literally dropped from Diaz's nose to his toes (it's the first pitch shown in this ESPN highlight clip). He then started the third by pumping three fastballs past Brad Wilkerson. Hughes had been 0-2 on the two hitters he walked in the first two innings and when he got Wilkerson 0-2 he shook off Posada to get the fastball, sending Wilkerson back to the bench on three pitches. His fastball was clocked at 91-92 miles per hour by the YES gun, but had explosive late movement. That heater, the wicked curve, and his change combined to give Hughes six strikeouts through 6 1/3 efficient innings (83 pitches, 64 percent strikes).
Put simply, Hughes had no-hit stuff last night. Indeed, he didn't allow a hit through those 6 1/3 innings. Then, with one out in the seventh and two strikes on Teixeira, Hughes reached back to break off an extra wicked curve ball, overextending as he followed through on the delivery, and felt his left hamstring pop.
That was it for Hughes no-hit bid. Hughes was removed from the game at that point and said after the game that there was no way he could have throw another pitch. He'll remain with the team for the rest of this short three-game road trip and likely get an MRI when they return to New York, but a trip to the disabled list is a certainty. The ESPN highlight linked above says Hughes will be out four to six weeks, though I'm not sure where they got that information. Peter Abraham thinks it will be a couple of months. Obviously, the Yankees won't be able to wager a guess themselves until Hughes gets his MRI.
The loss of Hughes is a blow to the rotation considering the fact that he was already delivering on his promise in just his second major league start, but in a twisted way this injury could be a good thing in the long run. Certainly the Yankees are lucky that it was Hughes' hamstring and not anything in his right arm that went pop, and having him spend most of the next two months on the DL could go a long way toward protecting that right arm. Brian Cashman had said before the game that Hughes was in the major league rotation to stay; that his development would continue at the major league level. That's a frightening change of plans regarding a 20-year-old pitcher who could be the most important asset this franchise has. Now, Hughes' hamstring will force the Yankees to bring him back along more slowly, and will limit his aggregate innings pitched to a reasonable total rather than the 200-plus he could have thrown if left in the rotation for the remainder of the season.
I'm not saying I'm glad that Hughes is injured. Certainly you don't want to see a young player hurt, and hamstrings have a habit of reoccurring, so you certainly don't want to see that pattern develop in any player, particularly one as important as Hughes. I do think, however, that the injury will protect Hughes from the team's desperation to overuse him this season, and I look forward to seeing more performances like last night's once he returns to the rotation, which hopefully will happen by the All-Star break at the absolute latest.
In the meantime, with Mike Mussina coming back on Thursday and Kei Igawa installed back in the rotation after his tremendous emergency performance on Saturday, the Yankees can turn to Darrell Rasner or, as Abraham suggests, Matt DeSalvo to fill the fifth spot in the rotation while Hughes (and Carl Pavano, of course) is on the shelf (of course, DeSalvo isn't on the 40-man roster right now).
As for the no-hitter, Mike Myers finished the seventh without incident, but blew the no-hitter and the shutout in the eighth. Still, thanks to another double play, the Rangers sent just 29 batters to the plate on the night, falling to the Yankees by the final score of 10-1. Luis Vizcaino finished the game in the ninth, marking just the third time all season that the Yankees completed a game with just three pitchers (the other two times both coming in their first road series in Minnesota in games started by Andy Pettite and, yes, Carl Pavano).
Really, everything that needed to go right for the Yankees last night did, with one glaring exception.
In other news, Chien-Ming Wang, who was hampered by a broken nail in his last start, will throw a bullpen today which will determine if he'll be able to make his scheduled start on Saturday. The Yankees expect he will indeed take his turn. More importantly, Bobby Murcer made a triumphent return to the YES booth last night, and Frank Torre has received his kidney transplant. Both Frank and his daughter, who donated the kidney, are doing well.