First Pitch: Recipe for disaster

July, 28, 2013
NEW YORK -- The Yankees are in deep trouble, and they have the wrong pitcher headed to the mound Sunday.

The Bombers are on the verge of being swept by the Rays at Yankee Stadium, which would leave them nine games out of first place as they depart on a long West Coast road trip. And Joe Girardi is handing the ball to Phil Hughes to stop the bleeding in the Bronx.

Good luck with that, Joe.

Hughes is 4-9 on the season, with a 4.33 ERA. But his home/road splits are downright frightening.

In nine starts away from home, Hughes is a respectable 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA. But in 10 starts at Yankee Stadium, he is 1-7, with a 5.63.

So much for home-field advantage.

To be fair, Hughes hasn't gotten much help. In fact, he now has the second-lowest run support of any starting pitcher in the American League -- 3.11 runs per outing. Only Chris Sale of the White Sox has gotten less help (2.78) -- but Sale's ERA (2.81) is more than a run and a half lower.

Hughes has pitched better of late -- in four starts in July his ERA is 2.63. But his record this month is just 1-2. And the Yankees' offense doesn't exactly appear to be on the verge of breaking out, after collecting just two hits off Rays rookie Chris Archer on Saturday.

Derek Jeter should return to the lineup Sunday. But the Yankees will be facing lefty Matt Moore, who's tied for the major league lead in wins -- 14-3 with a 3.17 ERA.

Moore vs. Hughes, in Yankee Stadium? Sunday doesn't shape up to be a fun day in the Bronx.

UP NOW: The full story on the imminent return of Jeter, and the injury to Travis Hafner. Ivan Nova pitched beautifully on Saturday, yet still got a loss.

ON DECK: The final game of this brief three-game homestand. The Yankees clubhouse will open to the media at 10 a.m., and Andrew Marchand will have you covered. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Eight games out, with 58 games to play -- are the Yankees toast, in terms of the division title?
Kieran Darcy is an staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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Jacoby Ellsbury
.271 16 70 71
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146