After a four-plus hour rain delay, the Yankees and Orioles kicked their Tuesday night contest off just after 11pm, and the Yankees ended up topping the O’s 5-3 just after 2am, notching their sixth straight win. I stayed up through the first four innings and hit the hay with the Yanks leading 1-0 and Phil Hughes escaping from a bases-loaded two-out situation.
Hughes needed 70 pitches to get through those four innings, but was ultimately able to get through six innings only giving up two runs — both coming on a Matt Wieters home run that was hit on an 0-2 count, which, more on that in a moment — while striking out five. Perhaps it was the weather, but Hughes’ velocity was noticeably down in this one (if you click on that link it appears this was his lowest velocity since returning from the DL), with his four-seamer averaging 91mph and topping out at 93mph. While it’s silly to gripe about the results — which were good — in the grand scheme of the Great Phil Hughes Development Project this one should probably be graded as an incomplete.
Getting back to that 0-2 business, Hughes himself had this to say about both his start and the pitch to Wieters, per Yankees.com:
“[The start] could have been a lot better,” Hughes said. “I made a dumb pitch there to Wieters, and that kind of puts a little sting in me there at the end. If you look at it, I guess it was all right, but I really didn’t want to make that pitch.”
On the highlight video it looked like Hughes grooved a fat fastball right down the middle, although per Brooks it looks like it was almost out of the strike zone. Either way, the pitch had no speed — 89.6mph — or bite on it, so it’s not terribly surprising it wound up in the stands.
As Matt Imbrogno noted on Twitter last night, and as we’ve all been privy to firsthand having watched Hughes start regularly for almost two years, Hughes continues to frustrate with his seeming inability to put hitters away after getting ahead. Per Baseball-Reference, after Hughes gets hitters in an 0-2 count this season they have a line of .283/.345/.434 against him (and this is prior to last night’s contest). While that’s worse than they usually perform against him (86 tOPS+), this is likely one of the worst lines allowed in the entire league after getting hitters in the most favorable count possible, as it represents a 246 sOPS+. Even after a 1-2 count, batters still hit Hughes 81% better than the league performs in this split (181 sOPS+). I wish I had the answer as to why Hughes continually struggles to put hitters away even when getting into favorable pitchers’ counts, but unless he can eventually figure this out he’ll continue to profile as more of a mid-rotation pitcher at best.