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Saturday, June 19, 2010
Hughes shows off his All-Star stuff

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes has it all working right now, even his sense of humor. He gave up two home runs to Jose Reyes in the first three innings Saturday before striking out Reyes in the fifth.

What was the adjustment?

"I didn't give him a fastball right down the middle," said a smiling Hughes after improving to 10-1 by besting Mike Pelfrey and the Mets, 5-3, to end the Yankees' three-game losing streak on a gorgeous Saturday in the Bronx.

Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes beats Mets' young gun Mike Pelfrey on Saturday to improve to 10-1.

Hughes, who turns 24 on Thursday, looks likely to be an All-Star. It will be extra special for Hughes because next month's game will be played in Anaheim, Calif., which is a short drive from his parents' home in Mission Viejo. In the offseason, Hughes still lives in the room he grew up in.

Just seven years ago, Hughes and his buddies would bring a Pepsi can and a few bucks to take advantage of a ticket deal to sit in the upper deck for Angels games. Now, he is likely going to be in the All-Star dugout.

On Saturday, he -- along with Pelfrey -- matched history more than a century old. Hughes, pitching without his "A" stuff, found a way to win.

When Hughes and Pelfrey faced each other Saturday, they each had nine wins and a winning percentage of .900 or better. The only time in baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that two starters entered with better credentials was in 1900. Philadelphia's Bill Bernhard played host to Brooklyn's Joe McGinnity at the Baker Bowl. Both starters were 12-1.

Hughes' lone loss was stitched onto him by Pelfrey and the Mets. A month ago, Hughes failed to attack the Mets, giving up four runs and ending up on the other side of a 5-3 score.

"It was a little payback," Hughes said of Saturday.

Hughes didn't have control of his fastball for the first three innings, especially when Reyes was at the plate.

Hughes gave up only five hits, but two of them were Reyes homers. However, Hughes did control the rest of the Mets' lineup and, for good measure, even struck out Reyes in the fifth on a curveball.

While the Core Four ages with a new nick or knock each day, the Yankees are creating replacements. In the next core, Hughes is the Andy Pettitte -- and might be even better. His 78 strikeouts lead the team, and he has a ridiculously low 25 walks.

For the past year, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Since June 14, 2009, Hughes is 15-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 129 innings. He has struck out 137 and walked just 36.

On Saturday, the Mets -- the ones who don't play shortstop, at least -- helped Hughes. David Wright, who struck out twice against him, said Hughes' fastball was exploding.

It helped that the Mets kept swinging early in the count. They had 10 plate appearances that lasted just one or two pitches. Hughes had three innings in which he threw fewer than 10 pitches. It helped the young righty join some impressive Yankees names.

In the past 50 years, there have been just five Yankees starters who have begun the season by winning 10 of their first 11 decisions, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Their names are Roger Clemens (2001), Jimmy Key (1994), Ron Guidry (1978) and Whitey Ford (1964).

Hughes belongs with them -- and pretty soon he likely is going to be staying at his parents' house as an MLB All-Star.

GAME NOTES: Protecting a two-run lead, Joba Chamberlain gave up an eighth-inning two-out double, then struck out Wright with a slider in the dirt -- inspiring a standard Chamberlain fist pump and scream. Mariano Rivera handled the ninth. Rivera warmed up in the eighth, and Girardi would have used him if Chamberlain hadn't gotten Wright. … Mark Teixeira started out having what has been a normal Teixeira game. With a chance to make some noise in the first inning, two men on, no one out, he hit into a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored, but Teixeira failed to pick up an RBI or extend the inning. In the third, he hit the tying two-run homer. Teixeira did something he has been unable to do -- he nailed what he thought was a changeup for a home run. After three straight fastballs, Teixeira got ahead 2-1 on Pelfrey. Pelfrey said it was a split-finger. The home run for Teixeira was his 253rd in eight seasons in the majors. That ties him with Hank Aaron for ninth on the home run list for players within their first eight career seasons.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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