Sunday, June 20, 2010

Klapisch: Hughes Looking Bullet-Proof

From Bob Klapisch:
The Yankees can say they were lucky to hang on for a 5-3 victory on Saturday. Lucky, perhaps, that Pelfrey wasn’t nearly as sharp as he’d been in the last month, giving up his own pair of home runs – including Curtis Granderson’s two-run blast , which put the Yankees ahead for good in the fourth inning.

But the Yankees’ most important data came from Hughes, who’s now 10-1 with a rapidly-emerging bullet-proof aura. Can anyone beat this guy? Crazy, isn’t it, that’s the same question the world is asking about Stephen Strasburg. The irony is that Hughes has been in a mini-slump, with below average location since mid-May.

Yet, Hughes hasn’t lost in his last five starts, which only underscores the belief among talent evaluators that Hughes could be the Yankees’ best asset in October, even more than CC Sabathia, who carried them through last year’s post-season, or Andy Pettitte, who holds the major league record for October victories.

Hughes, of course, hasn’t been tested like that, although his audition continues in other, more subtle ways. Make no mistake, this was game the Yankees wanted to take from the Mets – this one, in the teeth of their cross-town rivals’ eight-game winning streak.


Maybe a year or two ago, Hughes would’ve indeed fallen into the abyss. But he stiffened, allowing only two hits over the next four innings, and had the presence of mind not to give Reyes another fastball in his third at-bat.

This time, Reyes went swung over a Strike Three curveball, just a small example of how Hughes is evolving in a way that A.J. Burnett never has.

“We’ve seen (Hughes) grow up a lot,” since 2008, said Joe Girardi.
Winning without your best stuff is one of the things that all the great pitchers can do, so seeing Hughes pick up that skill has been very enjoyable for this Yankees fan. I'm sure you feel the same way.

As for Hughes being the Yankees best October asset, I'm not ready to go that far yet. Sure, he's grown tremendously as a pitcher, but right now I'd still rather see Sabathia or Pettitte in a big game. However, if Hughes can continue what he's started this season, and win some big games as the season rolls on I guess that could change things.

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