ALCS Game 2: Yankees 2, Rangers 7

Cash and I are wondering the same thing: When did Phil Hughes stop being a pitcher and turn into a thrower?

The Yankees decided to come out swinging against Colby Lewis today, seeing 9 pitches in the top of the first.  Swinging- not to be confused with hitting.

The Rangers, on the other hand, had a much more Yankee like approach against Phil Hughes in the bottom of the first: Elvis Andrus reached a nubber single that Hughes couldn't handle, took second a ball in the dirt and stole third while Michael Young struck out.  Josh Hamilton worked an 8 pitch walk (remember, that's nearly as many as Jeter-Grandy-Tex saw in the top half), but Hughes came back strong and struck out Vlad Guerrero on high 95 mph fastball.  With Nelson Cruz at the plate, Josh Hamilton took off for second, and Posada made a strong throw to second... but a strong throw to second without checking the fleet footed Andrus at third allowed Andrus to come home easily, and when Cano fired the ball back to Posada rather than running down Hamilton, it extended the inning.  Hughes struck out the side, but the Yanks were already in a 1-0 hole.

It's downhill after the jump, but it's not all negative.  Stay strong.  This series is now a best of 5.

The Yankees did much better in the top of the 2nd, thanks to a two out double by Swisher and a 6 pitch walk to Posada.  Berkman couldn't pass the baton, but at least Hughes caught a breather.

Hughes started the second inning well, getting Ian Kinsler to ground out to third, but then David Murphy took a get-me-over-fastball over the right field wall.  Molina flew out, and then Moreland and Andrus hit back to back singles.  Clearly, the fastball-curveball combo was not getting it done for Hughes, who was already closing in on 50 pitches (noted by GMan) when Young doubled in Mooreland.  Joe G called for the IBB to Hamilton to load the bases to face Vladimir GuerreroNicholas Peralta and I shared an uneasy feeling about this plan.  Thankfully, Hughes got Vlad to ground out to Arod, who beat Young to third.  55 pitches, down 3-0.  Not an auspicious beginning.

Last night's star, number 9 hitter Brett Gardner led off the 3rd with a 10 pitch AB, fouling off pitch after pitch before finally flying out to center.  Derek Jeter came up and saw 5 pitches of his own before nubbing a roller in front of the mound.  The long grass again hurt the Rangers, making Colby Lewis take a couple extra steps to get the ball, giving Jeter time to beat the throw.  Curtis Granderson got himself into a quick 0-2 hole, but stayed alive long enough to hit by a pitch; as aliasalias observed: every little bit helps. Up stepped Tex, and down went Tex into another 0-2 hole before popping a little nothing blooper to short.  At least Arod didn't fall behind in the count- for a change of pace, he grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.  Longtimelistener spoke truth to power.

Taking the field in the bottom of the third down 3, the Yanks' only solace was that they'd driven Lewis' pitch count up, just as the Rangers had down to Hughes.  A quick, clean inning could get Lewis back on the mound before he caught his breath and give the Yanks a chance to salvage the game.

So, instead Nelson Cruz saw a cutter up and in, a fastball low and away, and then ripped the next up and in fastball off the wall for a double.  Ian Kinsler gave Hughes a free out on a sac bunt, and as a way to say thank you, Hughes dropped a curveball down the heart of the plate for David Murphy to bounce off the wall in right.  Bengie Molina said, "forget this hit the wall on the fly nonsense, Imma just double in the gap."  Sergio Mitre started to warm in the bullpen while the Rangers fans enjoyed a fresh 5-0 lead.

Robinson Cano opened the 4th inning with a double to right center, then advanced to third on a passed ball while Swisher worked toward a strikeout- maybe he should have bunted?  YankeesJets spoke the inner thought of every Yankee fan: When will Ron Washington start managing?  While we waited, Posada struck out.  Lance Berkman hit a single to bring home Cano, but somehow forgot that the key part of singling during an erst-while rally is stopping at first base and got run down for the third out of the inning.

The aggressive baserunning backfired on the Rangers in the bottom of the 4th- Hamilton walked with one out and on the hit and run, he ran into a double play on a liner to Swisher, force out at first.  The 12 pitch inning was easily Hughes' best.

Gardner and Jeter went down quietly in the fifth. Granderson battled back from a 2-2 count to walk, but Tex went down on 3 pitches- foul, strike looking, strike swinging.  That about sums up the fun.

Nothing like throwing fastballs to a team looking for fastballs.  I can't sufficiently express how lousy Phil Hughes looked today.  In the 5th, he threw Cruz cutter cutter curve cutter, and Cruz took that 3rd cutter to dead center, missing a home run by about a foot.  Then he threw Kinsler 3 straight fastballs, and we're supposed to be impressed that Kinsler drilled a triple to the right field corner that Swisher made a diving try for and missed.

What happened to Phil Hughes in the second half of this season?  Where's the change up? He shelved the slider when he went to the pen last season, but why didn't it come back?

Joba, D-Rob, Logan and Mitre weren't incredible, but at least they didn't dig the hole any deeper.

And while the Yankees mounted a brief rally against Oganda, it came to the same result.  But the Yankees fought.  Right up until Granderson and Tex's walks against Feliz, they fought and they hit balls hard.  The balls got caught, but that's baseball.

The Yankees have serious problems if Hughes can't be better than this.  But this is a great team, nonetheless.

Never too high, never too low.  And win Game 3 on Monday night.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

Play of the Game: David Murphy's second inning homer put the game out of reach.  The post season is about starting pitching, starting pitching and starting pitching.  A lights out closer helps a little.

Comments of the Game: GMan, Nicholas Peralta, aliasalias, Longtimelistener and YankeesJets, as linked above. 

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