Several hours after their league-leading offense was shutout by the team with the fourth-most potent offense in the American League, the Yankees returned the favor, blowing the Tigers out 8-0. Of course, the game was a good deal closer than that up until the ninth inning, when the Yankees batted around and dropped six more runs on Detroit.
Thankfully for the Yankees they had Phil Hughes on the mound, who has, quite simply, been one of the best pitchers in baseball thus far. Remember how I said Rick Porcello was brilliant in the day game? Well Hughes was even better in the nightcap, also throwing seven shutout innings and striking out eight. With his latest dominant performance Hughes lowered his ERA to an American League-leading 1.38 (eat it, C.J. Wilson), to go along with a 2.50 FIP and a 3.60 xFIP, not to mention the fact that he's striking out exactly a batter per inning (good for sixth-best in the AL). Oh yeah, and would you like to know how many runs Hughes has given up against the 2nd- and 4th-best offenses in the AL over his last 14 innings? Two.
Hardcore Yankee fans have been following Hughes' young career for a long time (I for one have been reading about him since he was drafted in 2004), and as praiseworthy as his reviews have been at one point or another, I'm not sure even the biggest Hughes fanboy could've expected that he'd be this good this year. I know it's only been six starts and that there's still plenty of season left and he won't be finishing the season with an ERA under 2, but right now I have more confidence that the Yanks are going to win a given game when Hughes starts than any other pitcher in the rotation (non-CC Sabathia division, of course). And, most importantly, he's been an absolute blast to watch pitch.
On the offensive side of the ledger the Yanks built an early lead on RBI singles from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. After Hughes exited, Joba Chamberlain came in and tossed a scoreless eighth, and then the Yankees went to town on Detroit's bullpen. There were no big blasts -- it was really more like a slow bleed -- as the good guys put the game far out of reach.
My only gripe from this game is that Derek Jeter continues to slump pretty badly and is not doing his job setting the table. His slash line is now down to .270/.311/.411, and he has the lowest wOBA of the Yankee regulars. Obviously Jeter isn't going to OBP .311 all year, but I do wonder whether it might make sense to try Brett Gardner and his .420 OBP in the leadoff slot while moving Derek down to the two-hole. RAB's Joe Pawlikowski is a little less trigger-happy than I am re: Jeet's slump, but I really don't see the harm in moving Jeter down one place in the lineup to try to get his bat going again.
Mariano Rivera came in to pitch a perfect ninth in his first appearance since April 30, and the Yankees were able to salvage a split of the doubleheader. They go for a split of the series at 1:05pm behind their ace in yet another weekday day game I can't watch. Here's hoping for a better outcome than last time Sabath pitched on a Thursday afternoon.