While the Yankees were rolling out a 10-game winning streak replete with dominant pitching, it had to come to an end eventually. Yesterday’s loss snapped the streak, and today’s tough outing from Phil Hughes was the worst start by a Yankee pitcher in quite some time. Hughes faced off against the Braves’ Tommy Hanson, like Hughes, a one-time top prospect who has been plagued by injury and inconsistency throughout his career. Mark Teixeira, who bruised his foot on a hard grounder yesterday, was given the day off, and Eric Chavez filled in at 1st.
Hughes’ outing got off to a rocky start in the 1st, as Michael Bourn singled to lead off the game. After Hughes retired the next 2 batters, Bourn stole 2nd, and Dan Uggla singled him in. Freddie Freeman compounded things by blasting a homer to right, scoring Uggla and giving the Braves a 3-0 lead.
The Yankees got on the board in the bottom of the frame, as Derek Jeter hit a solo shot off Hanson. They looked to have something brewing in the 3rd as a 2-out walk by Eric Chavez and a double by Russell Martin put runners on 2nd and 3rd. However, Jayson Nix popped out to Freeman to end the inning, keeping it a 3-1 game.
The Braves extended their lead with solo shots by Martin Prado in the 3rd, Jason Heyward in the 4th, and David Ross in the 5th, making it a 6-1 score. The Yankees struck back with 3 solo homers of their own, by Chavez in the 5th, and back-to-back shots by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in the 6th to pull to 6-4. They looked to pull even closer when 2 walks sandwiched around a Jayson Nix flyout set the table for Curtis Granderson. The Grandyman came through, singling to right to score Russell Martin, and bringing up Alex Rodriguez with a chance to tie the game (with a flyball) or take the lead. Unfortunately, the worst possible outcome occurred, as Rodriguez grounded into a double-play to snuff out the rally, and take the wind out of the Yankees’ sails. It was now a 6-5 game.
That was as close as the Yankees would get. The combination of Cory Wade and Boone Logan gave up 3 big runs on a Freeman RBI groundout and another Heyward homer (with 1 man on) in the 8th. This put the Braves ahead 9-5, and made the likelihood of a comeback much less, particularly with dominant closer Craig Kimbrel lurking in the bullpen. The Braves added another insurance run off Freddy Garcia in the 9th, but the Yankees were unable to put together any kind of rally in the bottom of the inning, ending the game.
Overall, it was a rough day for Yankee pitchers, and particularly Phil Hughes. Hughes gave up 6 runs on 6 hits in 4 1/3 innings, with 5 strikeouts. On the surface, the peripheral numbers don’t look that bad, but unfortunately 4 of the 6 hits left the yard. Hughes did not have his best command today and left a few pitches up in the zone, and the Braves’ hitters were able to capitalize. In Hughes’ defense, it was very hot out (temperatures in the mid-90′s) and balls were carrying better than they typically do. While Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada continued to take care of business, the rest of the bullpen (Wade, Logan, and Garcia) all struggled.
On the offensive side, the Yankees also took advantage of the conditions to slug 4 home runs off Hanson. Unfortunately, they were all solo shots. Robinson Cano was the only Yankee to put together a multi-hit game, going 2 for 4, with the rest of the lineup combining for 6 hits.
It was the first really bad game for the Yankees in a while, so I suppose it’s not bad for them to get it out of their system. Hughes definitely took a step back today and continued to be plagued by the gopher-ball, but I’m going to give him a bit of a mulligan due to the balmy conditions. If he posts an outing like this in better weather, then I will be more concerned, but the ball was positively flying out of the yard today.
The Yankees will get a day off tomorrow, and will then head across town to Citi Field to take on the Mets in a 3-game set. They will look to get back on track and sweep the Mets again. Ivan Nova will take the hill on Friday, and Saturday should bring a classic matchup of CC Sabathia and RA Dickey, 2 pitchers who are having great success with completely different means.