Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So How Was Phil's Pitch Location Last Night?

(Fierce!  Courtesy of the AP)

After I opened this box last Monday, you knew I wasn't going to let it just be a one-off piece.  Phil Hughes made positive strides in his pitch location last Thursday, and not surprisingly it resulted in his best start of the year to date.  He had another strong start last night, going mano-y-mano with David Price, so it would make sense for his pitch location to be good again, wouldn't it?

So, Ben Francisco, What Would You Say ... You Do Here?

The Yankee offense's struggles against left-handed pitching are long and well-documented.  It's not like this is the first season they've failed to produce against southpaws, it's just that the lack of production this season stands out even more due to the large absence of good right-handed regulars.  There are a litany of reasons one can give as to why the production has been so putrid, all of them perfectly legitimate and easy to understand.  But there's one particular reason that continues to eat away at me.  Basically what it boils down to is the simple fact that Ben Francisco sucks at baseball.

Game 19 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 TB 3

(There's your game-winning run.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's been a tough little stretch of games lately against all the left-handers, and the Yankees could have used a win against one last night just to quiet the growing concerns about their ability to compete against lefties.  They didn't have an easy one to face in reigning Al Cy Young winner (who I predicted last year) David Price, and threw an even weaker than usual lineup out there against him without Kevin Youkilis (back) and Francisco Cervelli (Stewart).  But as they've done on one more than occasion already this season, the Yanks managed to do just enough and out smallballed the Rays to steal a big road win.

Game Notes:

- It looked like it was going to be business as usual for Phil Hughes in the bottom of the 1st, and not in a good way.  He gave up a leadoff walk and follow-up double to put runners on second and third with 0 outs, and needed 32 pitches to get out of the inning.  But he did escape with only 1 run allowed, and that was big.

- Big not only because it kept the offense close against Price but also because Hughes was terrific after the 1st.  He really attacked the strike zone with his fastball and allowed just 3 measly singles through the 6th.

- Price was as dominant as you'd expect, although he didn't exactly overwhelm the lineup.  The Yanks got to him on a wild pitch third strike and a pair of singles by Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells in the top of the 4th to tie the game at 1.

- Hughes gave the lead back after a leadoff walk and pair of singles in the bottom of the 7th, but finished the inning with a 3-slider strikeout to complete his second straight good start.

- And the lineup made sure he didn't waste it, scratching the tying run across in the 8th and then taking the lead in the 9th after Joe Maddon elected to leave Price out there.  Cano started with a single, reliever Fernando Rodney walked the bases loaded, and Ichiro came through with a big 2-run single to make it 4-2 Yanks.

- Lotta strange decisions in the 9th, like Maddon sticking with Price, Maddon using his closer to intentionally walk a batter, and Joe not pinch hitting for Chris Stewart with the bases loaded.  Things got even stranger when Mo gave up a first-pitch HR to Evan Longoria in the 9th, but he shut the door there for his 6th save.