Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Not Unusual

(I thought umpire Carlton Banks' punch
outs were a little over the top as well...)

I don't think too many people would have expected that Phil Hughes would turn in a better performance today than his last time in Arlington. Perhaps some would disagree that today was better than 6 1/3 innings of no hit ball, but the object of the game is to avoid giving up runs, not necessarily hits. No-hitters are captivating and are remembered as historically significant, but as far as the scoreboard is concerned, they are no different than any other scoreless performance. 8 innings of shut out ball are better than 6 1/3, no matter how you cut it. 

Hughes gave up only five baserunners - three hits, a walk and a hit batsman - while striking out six. He threw 65 of his 105 pitches for strikes and dropped his ERA nearly two runs to 5.19. Twelve of his remaining outs came via fly balls, as opposed to six on the ground. That ratio isn't necessarily encouraging, but the fact that he kept that many fly balls in the park in Arlington is impressive in it's own way. 

The young righty wasn't the only bright spot on the day. A-Rod went 5-5, drove in four runs and raised his average from .189 to .259 in the process. Mark Teixeira went 2-4 with a walk and 2 RBIs, his 35th and 36th on the season. Even Kevin Cash got in on the party, notching three singles. The Yanks stacked up 19 hits (9-20 w/RISP) and only stuck out three times.

Robby Cano went 2-5 while driving in two runs and apparently found some time in the top of the 5th to praise be to God. 

The Yanks got out early and gave Hughes and Cash room enough to breathe and be aggressive with their pitch selection. As the 11-1 final score would indicate, the outcome of the game was never in doubt. Why can't they all be like this one?

Game 45: Memories Live

First and foremost, it is Memorial Day. Although I know we all understand what the day signifies, it must be noted as we barbecue, sit on the beach, play golf, throw lawn darts or otherwise, that this holiday honors those who gave their lives for the country. Or rather, had their lives taken from them. These weren't Kamikaze pilots or suicide bombers. They were mostly people my age or younger who had previously assumed they were coming home. No one ever thinks it's going to happen to them. I'm guessing there are some active military members in our readership, perhaps some who are deployed overseas. Much respect to you folks as well. 


It's also sort of fitting that today, Phil Hughes makes his first return to the Ballpark at Arlington, the scene of Yankees' fans fondest memory of the youngster. We refer back to it as Hughes' high point, although we've already seen the heartbreaking ending. The date was May 1st, 2007, and the highly touted 20 year old rookie was making his second ever Major League start. In his first, he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 IP but struck out 5, giving fans brief glimpses of his nasty curveball and reason to be optimistic.

I still remember this game quite vividly. Well, Hughes' halves of the innings anyway. He was finding Jorge Posada's glove with nearly every pitch, when he didn't Posada would stand up and attempt to reassure Phil as he threw the ball back. 

Hughes issued three walks that night, but erased two of them with double plays. He had faced only one batter over the minimum once he retired Michael Young to start the seventh inning. He got ahead on future teammate Mark Teixeira 0-2 when it happened. Hughes awkwardly rolled his ankle and came up clutching his left hamstring and was immediately taken off the mound, no-hitter still intact.

I remember watching it and thinking it was basically the worst thing that could have occurred within the context of the game. It wasn't the injury that bothered me so much, although that was certainly disheartening. I just wished he had given up a hit or not. The game was left in suspended animation and we were all left to ponder "what if". It was like the ending to the Sopranos before David Chase told us all to fuck ourselves in cinematic form. 

Part of what's great about watching sports is that we get definitive answers. I don't watch sports whose games end in ties. The Yankees were already up 9-0, so we knew what the outcome of the contest was going to be. Since about the fourth or fifth inning, the only question left to be determined was whether Hughes could complete the no-hitter. 

It's been over two years, and thanks to guys like Clay Buchholz and Anibal Sanchez, we know that early no-hitters aren't surefire indicators of impending Major League success. That night though, it wouldn't have mattered. 

In my lifetime, ain't too many things better,
than watching your first son put his sentences together,
Yo, it kinda make me think of way back when,
I was the portrait of the artist as a young man.