(Not the outing Phil had in mind. Courtesy of Getty Images)
There probably hasn't been a win this season as big as the one the Yankees got on Saturday afternoon. Down 2 runs late in the game, with a possible 1-game division lead on the line, and they did just enough to get the lead back and hold onto it to stabilize their slide for a day. They had a chance to turn that into a series win and a much more comfortable 4-game lead yesterday, and had Phil Hughes and his excellent home start stats on the mound to try to get it done. Their already short lineup was missing Curtis Granderson, who was resting his sore hamstring. In his place was Chris Dickerson and the host of other lefty platoon bats.
- Dickerson had a great season in Triple-A, mainly because he still has the ability to punish right-handed pitching. In his first start this year in the show, he demonstrated that when he yanked a Chris Tillman cutter for a 2-out, 2-run HR in the bottom of the 2nd to get the Yankees on the board.
- Hughes was rolling early, mixing in his offspeed stuff (including The Slutter) well with his fastball, which he was commanding to both sides of the plate. The first time through the order, he held the O's to just 1 baserunner and struck out 4.
- The Hughes Cruise looked like it was coming to an abrupt stop in the top of the 5th after Mark Reynolds fought back from a 1-2 count to CRUSH a HR to left to cut the lead in half. But Phil worked around a couple of singles with a couple of big strikeouts to keep the damage to 1.
- Hughes' 5th-inning save was apparently just delaying the inevitable. He lost his bite on his offspeed stuff and his command of his fastball in the 6th, and gave up 4 runs on a walk and 3 hits without retiring a batter. Why he was left in to face Reynolds again is beyond me.
- There was no shortage of the Yankee offense shooting itself in the foot again in big situations, like back-to-back inning-ending double plays from Russell Martin and Derek Jeter in the 6th and 7th. Jeter came up empty with RISP all day.
- Joe was forced to play mix and match with the bullpen bottom feeders after Hughes left (more on Joe later), and it didn't work out for him in the 8th. 5 pitchers combined to give up 3 ER on 3 hits and 2 walks to make it an 8-3 Baltimore lead.
- An Ichiro GIDP and a weak Andruw Jones flyout to right ended another ugly effort by the Yankees and cut the division lead back down to 2.
- C-Dick: 1-1 w/ 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB. Drove in the first 2 Yankee runs, scored the third, and saved at least 2, maybe 3 with 2 outstanding defensive plays in center field, one taking extra bases away from J.J. Hardy in the 4th and another robbing Adam Jones of a possible 2-run home with a leaping catch at the wall to end the 7th.
- Hughes: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, L. It looked like things were going good for Hughes through 4. He threw 59 pitches in the first 4 innings. But it took him 28 to get out of the 5th, and he threw 12 in the 6th before being lifted. Just like his bad start in Detroit in early August, Hughes stopped working efficiently, tired out quickly, and lost all his command when he did.
- Jeter: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 4 LOB. The Captain batted with ducks on the pond all day, and he left all of them there.
- Girardi: It definitely wasn't Girardi's finest hour yesterday. He left Hughes in to face Matt Wieters and Reynolds in the 6th, mainly because he didn't have anybody up and stretched out in the bullpen. That was bad enough, but it was made worse by the fact that he didn't send Rothschild or Martin out to talk to Hughes to stall and give the bullpen guys time. Then he left Eppley in to face 2 lefties, didn't pinch hit for Chavez and Ibanez in the 8th against a lefty after using Andruw Jones for Dickerson, the only player who did anything offensively, an inning earlier. Just a brutal job by Joe.
Another series loss leads the Yankees right into another key series against a team chasing them for the division title. The Rays are playing good ball, better than the Yanks right now, and can really make things interesting if they can take 2 of 3. There's a chance A-Rod will be back in the lineup, and 100% certainty that ace CC Sabathia will be starting, so we'll see what happens.