To be fair to Phil, there were some things that he couldn’t control: Chris Iannetta’s homer in the second was Made In Yankee Stadium–a looping, twisting shot that carried right over the 314 sign next to the foul pole in right field, scoring Vernon Wells. In almost every other stadium that’s not a homer–it’s a foul ball. And that seemed to really open the floodgates for Hughes, who gamely battled on, giving up a run scoring double to Sir Albert Pujols in the third, and a no-doubt-about-it three run shot to Howard (Howie?) Kendrick in the fourth. He trudged off the mound to the unpleasant sound of boos (not “Huuuuuuughes” as some Twitter-ites suggested) after the Kendrick shot, head bowed.
I’m going to pause quickly to talk about Hughes: I really thought his stuff was fine tonight. Seriously–despite the line looking pretty discouraging, he was sitting at 92-94 MPH with the fastball (which is where he needs to be, as the pitch doesn’t have much movement), commanding his curve, and even dropping his changeup occasionally. In his three plus innings, he recorded six strikeouts. Six! He threw a change to Pujols at one point that totally baffled the big righty–and that was one of a few nice breaking pitches he threw over the course of the outing. Listen, there’s not much to be too encouraged about after this game, but I really don’t think Hughes should be condemned after these two outings (despite my jokes about 2011). The stuff is there, unlike last year at this time.
There were a couple other bright spots for the Yankees, the most obvious of which was the performance of David Phelps, who threw five and one-third innings of four strikeout, one hit, one run ball (the one hit and one run came on the same play, a homer by still-overpaid Vernon Wells). Phelps looked confident and agressive, taking the game to every Angel hitter he faced. Any questions about whether Phelps would be overmatched in the big leagues should be answered now–and get ready for a week or so of people talking about putting him in the rotation.
The other big story of the night was CJ Wilson, who pitched six innings, giving up six hits, while striking out two and walking two. Again, despite the final score, Wilson did not look sharp: when the Yankee batters made contact outs, they hit the ball hard. His command was slightly better than against the Twins, but his stuff wasn’t as good: the main problem was that the Yankees failed to capitalize, squandering various opportunities to score runs. The Yankees threatened in the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, and couldn’t come away with more than one run; and the Angels became the bombers for the day, crushing three home runs that accounted for most of their runs.
Ultimately, this was a discouraging, but not too horrifying loss. The Angels got the big hits, and the Yankees didn’t–and it really came down to that. Phil Hughes had good stuff, but left too many balls up in the zone; CJ Wilson didn’t have his best stuff, but managed to wriggle out of jams with his trademark ground balls. While the line doesn’t look pretty, there are still some positives to be gleaned from the performance.