Phil Hughes looks to get back on track against the Blue Jays tonight at Yankee Stadium.Phil Hughes Stats to Watch
Hughes was hurt by some shoddy defense in his most recent start before the break at Fenway, and couldn't command his fastball. The Red Sox went 8-for-18 with four doubles in at-bats ending in a heater; in his previous six starts he allowed a .206 batting average against fastballs.
Hughes, however, is happy to return to Yankee Stadium where he has been brilliant in his last two starts, allowing two runs over 16 innings with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12-to-1.
Opponents had just three hits in 15 at-bats ending in a curveball (.200) during those two starts in the Bronx, after they tagged him for a .308 average on the pitch in his first seven home starts. He got six strikeouts with his hook in his last two home starts, one shy of his total in his other seven home starts combined.
Hughes hasn’t allowed a home run in his past three starts. Only twice before in his career has he had a longer homerless streak as a starter: a five-game streak in 2008 and another one in 2010.
Is Hughes’ gopherball problem a thing of the past or has he just been lucky?
During this three-game stretch, 31 of his 69 balls in play have been flyballs. For the season, on average, one of every eight flyballs he allows become homers. That means he should have given up four homers during this three-game span, but instead none went over the fence.
And it’s not like he is doing a better job of locating his pitches. Ten of his 19 homers allowed have come on pitches located on the inner third of the plate or further inside.
Hughes has actually thrown more inside pitches in his last three starts (30%) compared to the rest of the season (22%), but has allowed no longballs.
The Bautista Problem
Jose Bautista has 15 career homers versus the Yankees; the only team he has more against is Boston. Six of those have come since the start of last season; only Mark Trumbo (7) has more during that span.
The Yankees have consistently pitched away to Bautista since 2011, with 62 percent of pitches thrown to him on the outer third of the plate or further outside.
They’ve had success when doing that, “holding” him to a .459 slugging percentage and only two homers in 37 at-bats. When they don’t locate a pitch in that location, he has four homers and a 1.125 slugging percentage in 16 at-bats over the last two seasons.
The Yankees have lost their last three games against the Blue Jays, scoring no more than one run in each of the losses.
The last time they had a longer losing streak like that was in 1990, when they lost eight games in a row scoring one run or fewer against the Athletics. That’s the longest such losing streak for the Yankees in the Divisional Era (since 1969), according to Elias.