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Saturday, July 13, 2013
Deja Hughes, all over again

By Andrew Marchand

NEW YORK -- This is what Phil Hughes had working for him Saturday. He might have had his best stuff of the season. He had a fastball at 93 mph that was complemented by a slider around 10 miles slower. This made it so the pitches were leaving his hand and the Twins couldn't read what was coming.

Five of the first six Twins outs were strikeouts. They had only three hits off Hughes entering the eighth inning. And still Hughes couldn't win in the Bronx.

It was just another day where you see why Hughes will do much better if he leaves for a big ballpark in the National League next year.

Yankees-Twins
Phil Hughes was good, but not nearly good enough in the Yankees' loss Saturday.
On Saturday, like most days, this New York lineup couldn't score a lot of runs, but if Hughes wants to ask the Yankees for big-time money with a straight face, he has to win some tight ones.

Instead of celebrating Hughes for his career-high 10 strikeouts, the story once again is the season-high-tying three homers he gave up in the 4-1 loss to Minnesota.

For Hughes, it feels as if his demeanor is right for New York; he doesn't get too high or too low. He is popular with the media because he acts like a professional in victory and in defeat. On Saturday, he stood by his locker and refused to make excuses even though this ballpark doesn't mesh with his fly-ball style. He has given up 12 of his 18 homers this season in the homer-friendly Bronx.

"It doesn't factor in it," said Hughes (4-9, 4.57 ERA), not accepting the offer of an excuse.

Hughes' 18 homers allowed are tied for the 11th most in baseball. He doesn't lead the team, as CC Sabathia has given up 20. In fact, Hughes had been better of late, allowing only two in his previous four starts.

But this was a classic day when you would like to see evidence that Hughes will graduate to more than a No. 4 or 5 starter in the American League. The Yankees' offense is abysmal, and the pitching must carry them if they will have any chance for an incredible comeback in the AL East, or even for the wild card.

That leaves little room for error. So Hughes must be more consistent, and there can't always be a fastball that runs over the plate and turns into a game-tying home run, like Trevor Plouffe's in the second inning Saturday. In the seventh, the .238-hitting Ryan Doumit gave the Twins the lead on a ball that was a short-porch homer. That made it 2-1 Twins.

In the eighth, still down only a run, Hughes fell apart. He gave up a legitimate two-run homer to the No. 9 batter, the .228-hitting Pedro Florimon, that basically sealed the game.

Joe Girardi, knowing the Yankees will need to win every game they can to sneak into October, clearly was disappointed because he knew Hughes had the stuff to deliver a victory.

"It was some of the better stuff that he has had all year long," Girardi said.

That is the thing for Hughes in the Bronx -- even his best is often not good enough.