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Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Postgame notes: Hughes wanted back in

By Wallace Matthews

Eduardo Nunez
Eduardo Nunez struck out twice in two at-bats, including once with the bases loaded in the ninth.
NEW YORK -- Not that it would have mattered, but Phil Hughes said he could have returned to Monday night's Yankees-Royals game despite having to sit through a 59-minute rain delay that would have kept him off the mound closer to an hour and a half.

"That’s what was frustrating about tonight," said Hughes, who threw 62 pitches and took the loss despite allowing only two of the five runs the Royals scored in their 5-1 win at Yankee Stadium. "I feel like I could have given us some more innings and gone pretty good."

Joe Girardi saw it differently, however, and decided not to send Hughes back out for the top of the fifth inning.

“Once you get by an hour or so at that point with the amount of pitches that he had, I had some concerns," Girardi said. "I wasn’t comfortable bringing him back out."

In the final analysis, it wouldn't have made a difference, because the Yankees managed to score just one run, on Lyle Overbay's pinch-hit home run in the seventh, and the three Kansas City runs that really put the game out of reach were surrendered in the seventh and ninth innings, by Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne, at a time when Hughes probably would have been out of the game anyway.

Once again, the story of the game was not pitching but hitting, or the lack thereof. The Yankees wasted a great outing by Hiroki Kuroda in the series finale against Baltimore on Sunday when Mariano Rivera blew the save, and it turns out they would have wasted a pretty good outing by Hughes had he come back and thrown another two scoreless innings.

If there is a positive to take from this, it is the fact that in his last three outings, Hughes has allowed just five earned runs in 19 innings (2.37 ERA) and seems to have pulled out of the tailspin he was in from May 15 to June 19.

"It seems like all season, I’ve run into some trouble early," Hughes said. "And then it feels like, especially in these last few starts, I’ve kinda found myself as the game goes on. I’ve felt pretty good the last few times out. But that’s baseball. You can’t expect the weather to cooperate."

Notes:

Brett Gardner made Yankees history of a dubious sort tonight: His strikeout with the bases loaded in the ninth inning extended his streak to 16 straight games with at least one strikeout, surpassing Stan Bahnsen in 1968 and yes, Alex Rodriguez in 2005. Gardner did not appear in the postgame clubhouse and when asked to retrieve him, a Yankees spokesman said, "Gardy's in the whirlpool and doesn't appear to be getting out any time soon." Gardner is mired in a deep slump; he now has one hit in his past 26 at-bats.

Travis Ishikawa made his Yankees debut and almost immediately experienced the best and worst of playing in the Bronx. In the first inning, he seemed thrilled to be included in the roll call; after he struck out for the second time in two at-bats in the fifth, he was booed on his way back to the dugout.

• The Yankees were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, but their worst moment was in the ninth, when they loaded the bases with none out but couldn't score as Eduardo Nunez (two Ks in two ABs), Gardner and Zoilo Almonte struck out to end the game. At least Almonte battled, fouling off three potential third strikes before swinging through a 98 mph fastball from Greg Holland.