During a ten-game road trip against American League East opponents the New York Yankees went 5-5. Without Phil Hughes they may have won only 3 of those games. For the second straight appearance Hughes was excellent as he tossed seven plus innings of shutout ball helping the Yankees defeat the Boston Red Sox 2-0.The victory keeps the Yankees tied with the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East. The Yankees return to the Bronx and face the Tampa Bay Rays beginning tonight. It’s too bad Hughes won’t be involved in any of those games because as of right he’s the best performer in the Yankees’ rotation.
Hughes (15-12) lowered his full season ERA to 3.96 allowing just five hits and one walk while striking out seven. After enduring a slow start and the many suggestions that maybe he’s not as good of a pitcher as expected, Hughes began to turn things around in June. His advanced metrics show he may be getting by with less than stellar stuff, but watching him last night was a pleasure. He was very much in control, and yes this was a watered-down Red Sox lineup, but all the same he had to perform. These are still big league batters who will hit mistakes and Hughes didn’t make many. The hardest hit ball off him was the double by Pedro Ciriaco which attributed to chasing him with only 95 pitches thrown in the seventh inning.
At that point the Yankees had just increased their lead to two runs courtesy of a hobbled Derek Jeter, who lofted a soft liner into center field for a RBI-single. The Yankees had scored once in the fourth on Andruw Jones‘ sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and no outs. The Yankees offense was once again unable to do much with runners in scoring position going 1-for-9. They had two hits in such situations in 34 at-bats during the series. The two hits came off the bat of Jeter.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Hughes made the small lead stand and manager Joe Girardi pieced together the eighth inning with Boone Logan getting Jacoby Ellsbury to fly out with Ciriaco at second base and one out. David Robertson came on for the final out of the inning inducing a fly out from pinch-hitter Ryan Lavarnway. Rafael Soriano notched his second save in the series and 38th for the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
The Yankees (81-62) have CC Sabathia (13-5, 3.56 ERA) on the hill tonight and they’ll need an ace-like performance from the big lefty as the Rays have Cy Young candidate David Price (17-5, 2.54 ERA) toeing the rubber. The Yankees need wins to keep pace with the Orioles but can also put some space between them and the Rays with a successful series.