Though named to the All-Star team last week, it was no secret Phil Hughes had been scuffling a bit lately.
Since being skipped in late June Hughes had given up a combined 11 runs and even before being skipped, he hadn't been lights out with an ERA of about 7.00 in his last four starts.
Tonight he allowed one run and six hits in seven innings.
"I think he wanted to turn it around, he had been struggling a little bit," Joe Girardi said.
He said his work with pitching coach Dave Eiland, who recently returned from a near-month absence, paid off last night. There was an issue with his arm slot, which had a negative effect on all his pitches, especially his fastball.
“It was kind of a problem that accumulated over the last few starts, I was pushing the ball a little bit and Dave wasn’t around to help me out with it, noticing it,” Hughes said. “I would kind of get away with it sometimes but it wasn’t as crisp as I’d like it to be. I really tried to make that adjustment in my sides and it just felt a lot better today.”
Hughes (11-2, 3.65 ERA) became the Yankees’ third 11-game winner, joining Andy Pettitte (11-2, 2.70) and CC Sabathia (11-3, 3.19). That gave the Yankees (55-31) three 11-game winners before the All-Star break for the first time since 1955.
“It’s like we have three aces,” Said Mark Teixeira, who hit two home runs.
Pettitte, though not known for big first halves, still can't be called a surprise, nor can Sabathia. Hughes, as a fifth starter, has been a revelation after emerging from a five-man competition in spring training to claim the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
“I felt in spring training that I’d be able to have a good year,” Hughes said. “I kind of got that confidence back from last year, but I don’t think a lot of people expected a ton out of me being that I was the No. 5 starter and that basically all we needed was a solid No. 4 guy. Maybe not all that much pressure was put on me but I really felt a lot of pressure from myself that I could have a good year and so far so good. So I do take pride in that because the front office puts a lot of belief in you and it’s kind of up to you to deliver on that.”
Hughes also woke up in the morning thinking his rotation spot might not be secure, seeing that Cliff Lee was, at the time, all but being fitted for pinstripes.
"Obviously we're not going to go with a six-man rotation in the second half, something's got to give," Hughes said of his thoughts when reading of the potential trade and how it might impact him. "You kind of do the math and figure it's not going to be the top three guys so [you say to yourself] where do we fall in this picture? It's kind of the way this game is...if it would have happened, I figured I might go to the bullpen or something but I've done that before so it's not like I was panicking or anything."
It was the Yankees’ season-best seventh straight win, including 5-0 on this West Coast trip, one in which they've allowed a total of six runs.
“Our pitching has carried us all season, it really has,” Teixeira said. “We still haven’t clicked offensively. We’ve had two or three guys carry the team for a while, two or three here and there. But one through nine, I still don’t think we’re clicking like we’re capable of.”
And with that, the Yankees go for eight straight tomorrow night as it will be Javier Vazquez (7-7, 4.81) taking on Felix Hernandez (6-5, 3.01).