There are a lot of points I want to make about this game, but the most important point is about Hughes tonight. This was a fun game to watch from a catcher’s perspective. A lot of interesting pitch selection calls to make with the repertoire Phil Hughes has now.
Phil featured an 88-90 mph cutter, a fastball 92-94 and a curveball that was usually around 78-80. The heralded reason for Phil getting the 5th spot was his changeup, but I don’t think it was used the entire night, nor was it the definitive pitch to throw at any point in the game.
Phil and Jorge mixed the cutter and fastball perfectly deep into the night. I was not counting curveballs, but I would estimate the fastball or cutter was featured about 80% of the time. Oakland is not a good hitting ball club and the spacious foul territory turns fouled balls into outs, but Phil’s improved cutter has opened up his game tremendously. Just featuring a well spotted 93 MPH fastball and a cutter that is about 4MPH less kept the batter off balance and they had trouble centering too many. Mix in a curveball that has a lot of break and you have the makings of a very effective pitcher. Phil had a no hitter at the end of 7 innings with only one batter having 3 balls on them (according to the announcers). That batter walked on 4 pitches. The no hitter was broken up on a line drive back that hit Hughes on the non throwing heel of the glove/forearm. After walking the next batter and having thrown his 101 pitch, Girardi correctly took out Hughes as the slim margin was only a 2-0 lead and Oakland now had 1st and 2nd with one out.
Back to Hughes and Posada; they really mixed up the pitches well and while at times I would have mixed in a few more curves, what they called worked and it worked because of the way they mixed it up and the speed, movement and location differentials on the pitches. This makes for a fun night to call pitches. Phil’s line ended up 7.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 walks and 10 K’s.
Joba came on and after getting an out, had a couple pitches fouled off before allowing an opposite field single to close the gap to a one run lead. Joba recovered to get the final out of the 8th.
The Yanks got a huge insurance run when Posada got a single and got replaced by Granderson as they forced Posada at 2nd base. Granderson went to 2nd on a groundout by Winn. Gardner then stepped up and proceeded to get ahead in the count, but was not aggressive failed to swing at a hittable pitch. I was disappointed because this was a time where a walk was not too important and in that spot you have to try and take a cut at a strike and drive in that run. Fortunately, Gardner redeemed himself by coming through with a very important single to LF on a 3-2 count. I just wanted to make sure that I was critical of his approach because I would have mentioned it if he hadn’t come through.
Rivera came on and closed the 3-1 win out, but did allow a hit and hit a guy who he had 2 strikes on. I want to make this point now before it happens, but I think the way we will start to see the effectiveness of Mo decrease will be in the form of consistency. He will not be as sharp as often and because of that he will lose some games for us this year. We are still in the 1st inning of this year and he may not be in top form, but he has had too many games where he has not been sharp…even though he has been very effective thus far. Maybe I am saying this just to prepare all of us for the inevitable? Then again, I would have expected this comment to be made and be correct 3 years ago and he still has been great. The only difference is that I didn’t make the comment 3 years ago, because he was still throwing great consistently; I am not seeing that in the 1st inning of this year.
That last paragraph is tough to write and I hope I have to eat those words…
Onto other points on this enjoyable game:
• Jeter jumped on the first pitch of the game and singled. I think the first pitch of the game is a good pitch to jump on for a guy like Jeter (not every time) even though it flies in the face of us wearing pitchers down all the time.
• I was very annoyed with Jeter for swinging at the first pitch when Gardner was on 1st base with 2 outs in the 7th inning with a 2-0 lead. You have to give Gardner at least 1 pitch to try and steal. If you are down 0-1, then you take your hacks. It is kind of a selfish to swing at the first pitch; also it was a curveball.
• In the first inning, I was very annoyed with Girardi. As you know the first inning tends to be a higher scoring inning as the top of the lineup is up and the starting pitcher is not fully in a groove. The Yanks had 1st and 2nd with nobody out and Texiera had a 3-2 count on him and Girardi sent the runners. Texiera looked at strike 3 and Jeter was easily thrown out. Texiera really screwed up; not sure how he didn’t swing at a definite fastball strike and that is not Girardi’s fault, but with a free throw to 3rd base with a lefty up why take that risk when Tex is not swinging well and he strikes out a lot? I want ARod up with 1st and 2nd and one out if Tex doesn’t get the job done; why the risk there? Was the reward that great? Girardi and Tex screwed up there!
• While there have been a few times where Nick Johnson has not been aggressive, overall, he has a great eye and one of the main reasons why he is walking so much is the great eye combined with refusal to expand his strike zone and the fact he fouls a lot of pitches back that others would put in play create these walking situations. There have been more than a handful of AB’s this year where he has fouled off 2-1, 2-0, 3-1 pitches that were very hittable pitches. Later in that AB he walks. Maybe he is not locked in with his swing, or maybe that is just him, but if he gets locked down on his swing more you will see some of those walks diminish and hopefully you will see more hard hit balls. He did hit one right up against the fence about 350’ away in this game
• Cano was 0-29 in Oakland before he grounded a single through the right side
• The Yanks scored their 2 runs and back to back triples by ARod and Cano in the 4th inning. Posada drove in Cano when Oakland left the infield back. It seemed like Posada gave himself up to ensure the run came in
• I said this when they got him, but I am not sure why we got Winn? I know it is early and one good game his numbers will look good, but I thought keeping Hoffman or using one of our younger guys would have saved the over 1 mil Winn is getting. I hope I am wrong, but I would not be surprised if he gets released later in the year.
* That said about Winn, our speed in the OF is excellent with Granderson and Gardner at the other positions. Further our defense has yet to commit and error this year (although Jeter did commit one they just didn't call it one). This is a very good defensive team!