Phil Hughes makes his fourth start of the season. Thus far, Hughes has been the back of rotation work horse that the club had hoped yesterday's starter would be. He's given up two runs or fewer in each of his three starts, his outing in Oakland two turns ago is the best performance by a Yankee starter this year, and he'd be a perfect 3-0 had he not been betrayed by the bullpen in Baltimore Tuesday night.
Hughes has been successful in six career appearances, two of them starts, against the ChiSox. He's allowed just two runs and ten baserunners in eleven innings of work, while striking out a batter per frame. The four relief appearances came last year, with Hughes taking the tough-luck loss in one of them, despite allowing just a single run and three baserunners in five innings of work. The two starts came in 2008, and despite Hughes' poor performance overall in that campaign, he was successful against Chicago, allowing one run and seven baserunners over six innings. His first start was limited to two innings thanks to a rain delay, his second to four innings due to it being his first following his months-long stay on the disabled list.
Current Chicago batters have good numbers against Hughes, over just 41 plate appearances, with the bulk of the success accumulated by Alex Rios and Mark Teahan during their time with Toronto and Kansas City respectively. Hughes' 2.00 ERA is outperforming both his FIP and xFIP, largely due to his success at stranding the relatively high number of free passes he's issued. If he's going to sustain his early season success, he'll have to reduce that walk rate. Chicago is currently sixth in the AL in BB%, at 9.9%.
For the White Sox, lefty Mark Buehrle gets the ball. Unlike Hughes, Buehrle's numbers suggest he's been a bit unlucky, as his 4.68 ERA is far worse than his 3.91 FIP. The main culprit Buehrle thus far has been a major drop in his strikeout rate, currently at just 3.58 per 9, well down from his career mark of 5.16 per 9. The Yanks teed off on Buehrle in two starts last year. They knocked him around for seven runs, twelve hits, and a loss in four and third during a July start in the Second City. Buehrle held them to just two runs over six innings in the Bronx a month later, despite allowing ten baserunners, but the Yanks still escaped with the victory. Over his ten year career, Buehrle is just 1-6 with 6.43 ERA in ten starts against the Yankees.
In roster news, Curtis Granderson's groin injury has landed him on the DL. Yesterday's combination of another disaster start from Javier Vazquez and some more questionable relief choices from Joe Girardi has left the bullpen a bit short today. As a result, Mark Melancon has been recalled to take Granderson's roster spot. The promising right hander struggled with his control over his first 16.1 Big League innings last year, but has dominated AAA over parts of three seasons. Eventually the Yankees will want another outfielder on the roster to replace Granderson, but for today Melancon is needed. If he impresses, he could pitch his way into a job given the current uncertainty in middle relief.
Yesterday's game was ugly and frustrating on a number of levels, but one of the great things about baseball is that each day brings a new game. The Phranchise has a chance to right the ship this afternoon, and keep the Yankees rolling along at .667 clip. Just like shaking off a Sunday morning hangover, it's time to put away Saturday's bruises, put on your Sunday shoes, and get back in the win column.
Mirrors in the room go black and blue
On a Sunday morning in Saturday shoes
We don't choose who we love
We don't choose
Lights over the midway melt on the street
In her Sunday shoes, with her Saturday feet
She don't love who she chose
She don't need what she use
Daylight comes and exposes
Saturday's bruises and cold roses
Yeesh. Already down Granderson, the lineup is further punchless today, with Alex Rodriguez getting the day off. Ramiro Pena plays third, and Nick Swisher, who has destroyed Mark Buehrle over his career, takes the clean up spot. As expected, Brett Gardner slides over to center, and with the lefty Buehrle on the bump, Marcus Thames gets the start in left. Let's hope that he keeps up his lefty mashing and that the White Sox keep the ball out of left field. Nick Johnson returns to the line up and the two spot in the order; he'll play first today with Tex getting a half day off as the DH.
And speaking of punchless, here's the Fightin' Ozzies lineup, featuring not one, not two, not three, not even four, but five batters with an OPS+ of less than 65, and four guys with an OPS+ under 45. Oh, and Alex Rios, who has great numbers against Hughes, is not in the lineup, as he attends the birth of his child. I hope Alex is nicer to his offspring than he was to this guy.
Mark Kotsay RF
Gordon Beckham 2B
Andruw Jones CF
Paul Konerko 1B
Mark Teahan 3B
Carlos Quentin DH
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alexei Ramirez SS
Juan Pierre LF