W2W4: Yankees vs. Blue Jays (Aug. 28)

Phil Hughes Stats To Watch

Hughes gave up seven runs in four innings in a start against Toronto two weeks ago. Blue Jays hitters rapped seven line drives against him, the most he’s given up in any start in the past two seasons.

The biggest issue for Hughes that day was that he threw just 12 of 28 curveballs for strikes (a season-low 43 percent rate).

That forced him to throw his fastball in the strike zone (two-thirds of his fastballs were), and Blue Jays hitters crushed it for seven hits.

Hughes has adjusted in his past two starts, throwing his changeup at a much higher frequency. In fact, he’s thrown nearly twice as many changeups as curveballs in his past two starts.

The matchup to watch for Hughes comes against Edwin Encarnacion, who has hits in his past four at-bats against him, and has hit the ball in the air in his past eight turns against Hughes.

Ricky Romero Stats To Watch

Romero enters in the midst of a season that has taken a disastrous turn. He’s lost 10 straight decisions since his 8-1 start, posting a 7.69 ERA in his past 11 appearances.

The 10 straight losses matches Bud Norris of the Astros for worst streak by a pitcher in the majors in 2012.

Only two Blue Jays pitchers have had longer losing streaks -- Tom Underwood (13) and Jesse Jefferson (12), both doing so from 1978 to 1979.

Romero has dropped four straight starts to the Yankees over the past 13 months, including two in 2012. The only Blue Jay with a longer streak of losing starts to the Yankees is Pat Hentgen (6) from 1997 to 2004.

The book on Steve Pearce

Though he may not get a look tonight, Pearce, the newest Yankee, is able to play first base if needed, though not with anything near the skills of Mark Teixeira.

In nearly 600 innings there, he has been credited with four Defensive Runs Saved, 30 Good Fielding Plays and 15 Defensive Misplays & Errors (Good Plays and Misplays are determined via video review, with plays classified into more than 80 different categories).

For comparative purposes, Teixeira’s ratio of good plays to misplays is 69-to-14 this season. Nick Swisher's is 18-to-4 in 250 innings at the position with the Yankees. Casey McGehee's is 25-to-6 in nearly 550 innings in 2012.

Pearce’s strength is taking a pitch on the inner half of the plate from a lefty and driving it. All six of his home runs over the past four seasons against left-handed pitching have come on pitches to that area.

Historically, his weakness is against right-handed pitching (a .203 batting average in 251 at-bats since 2009) and when lefties work him on the outer-half of the plate. He does seem to have addressed the latter, reducing his outs-to-hits rate from 50-to-11 from 2009 to 2011 to 24-to-9 in 2012 on such pitches.

This and That

Rafael Soriano, who typically gets misses on one of every four swings against his fastball/slider combo, has gotten only four on 31 swings in his past three outings.

Derek Jeter enters tonight 13-for-30 with five home runs against left-handed pitching since Aug. 11.

Ichiro Suzuki is 0-for-his-past-11 when he hits a ground ball. He was reaching base via hit or error on 27 percent of his grounders prior to that.

If Andruw Jones doesn’t get the call tonight, don’t be surprised. He’s 10-for-69 since the All-Star break, including 3-for-36 with a two-strike count.