If the New York Yankees are fortunate enough to reach the playoffs this season, they are going to need a solid starter in the third and fourth spots in the rotation. The assumption is that Andy Pettitte will return to take one of those spots and should Phil Hughes continue to pitch like he did last night, he’ll be in the mix for a postseason start.
Hughes was fantastic in seven innings of one-run ball in the Yankees 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Hughes struck out five batters, allowing four hits and three walks. He did allow his 30th home run of the season, the first of Adeiny Hechavarria‘s MLB career, but as has been the case recently, the homers have been solo shots and not the least bit damaging.
Hughes is on an impressive run at Yankee Stadium, going 6-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his last seven starts in the Bronx. It won’t be out of the question that he starts a home game in the first round and manager Joe Girardi shouldn’t have any qualms about putting Hughes on the mound in a crucial start at the Stadium. This season in the new playoff format, the team with home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs actually plays their first two games on the road, so the third and fourth starters would get the home games. The Yanks are currently two games off the pace of the Texas Rangers for that spot.
Nick Swisher continued to swing a hot stick, driving in the first run of the game in the bottom of the third. In the home-half of the fourth inning the newest Yankee, Steve Pearce, who was immediately placed in the cleanup spot with lefty Ricky Romero on the mound, walked to open the inning. Pearce moved to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a ground out by Russell Martin. He scored on Curtis Granderson‘s sacrifice fly to put the Yanks up 2-0.
Hughes ran into trouble in the top of the six, but Robinson Cano bailed him out with an amazing leaping catch on a liner hit by Yunel Escobar and doubled up Colby Rasmus who got too far off third base. In the seventh, Hughes recorded his 500th career strikeout on Hechavarria to end the inning.
David Robertson tossed a quick 1-2-3 eighth inning for his 21st hold. In the ninth, Rafael Soriano, after a stern talking to from Mariano Rivera, came out with a lively fastball and an attitude one day after blowing a two-run lead. He looked great, reaching the mid-90′s with his fastball which usually sits in the lower 90′s. With two outs and Yorvit Torrealba at the plate, Soriano went 87-mph slider, 96 mph fastball and finished him off with a nasty 87-mph slider to end the game. It was an impressive bounce back performance and should limit talk that Soriano cannot handle big situations.
The Yankees (75-54) remain 3.5 games up on the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. In today’s matinee at the Stadium there will be two lefties on the hill as CC Sabathia (13-3, 3.44 ERA) makes his second start since returning from the DL and Toronto’s J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.15 with Jays) looks to continue his recent success.