(Photo Courtesy of The AP)
It's nights like last night that make me regret moving out to Wisconsin and losing my access to YES on cable and all the Yankee games that come with it. Actually, maybe it's a good thing I didn't watch last night's game because my pants would have been off in no time and my TV would probably be a little sticky right now.
Phil Hughes was masterful last night, absolutely masterful. Kid was dealing from the time he stepped on the mound to throw his warm-up pitches to the time Joe came to take him out in the 8th inning. Everything about last night's performance was confirmation for why the Yankees have been so high on him for the last 5 years and why he was chosen to get the final rotation spot over everybody else.
You can say whatever you want about the 6 1/3 hitless innings he threw against the Rangers in '07 or the 6 shutout innings with 6 Ks against the Tigers last year, but last night was the greatest outing of Hughes' young career. And it wasn't because of the 7 1/3 no-hit innings that he threw before finally giving up that freak hit to Chavez or the career high 10 Ks (even though those were great). It was the way Hughes went about racking up those numbers that was impressive and showed the tremendous growth he has experienced as a pitcher over the last couple years.
Hughes threw 101 pitches last night, and all but 10 of them were four-seamers and cutters. That shows that not only were those pitches working for Hughes last night, but more importantly that Hughes recognized it early and stuck with those pitches, eliminating the fastball and changeup from his selections and only throwing 10 curveballs. The A's could do nothing with the 4-seamer and cutter last night, so he rode those pitches for as long as he could. He didn't waste time trying to mix pitches, set guys up, or pick at corners. He was on the same page as his catcher and he was just rocking and firing with what he knew the other team couldn't hit.
Our little boy is growing up. Hughes is starting to think on the mound, recognize what his strengths and weaknesses are from outing to outing, and pitching to those strengths, and that is a scary thought for the rest of the AL.