What better than to see a recap of Phil Hughes' gem against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday? It was a phenomenal performance that dropped his ERA under 5.00 and truly showed how great a pitcher he can be. With the first nine-inning complete game of his career (including the minors), against a vaunted Detroit lineup (featuring two probable Hall of Famers in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder), out-pitching 2011 Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander, Hughes proved he can be a dominating starting pitcher that can also go deep into games.
If you missed his recent gem (or even if you didn't), be sure to check out the highlights.
Hughes averaged 93 MPH with his favorite pitch, the fastball. And when I write "favorite," I really mean it: Of the 122 pitches he threw, 98 were fastballs (including the last 15)! That's 80 percent. He also pitched efficiently, tossing no more than 20 in any frame. He lived mostly up in the zone - which generally results in strikeouts and fly-balls - but got away with some long, loud outs because he was in spacious Comerica Park.*
* Frankly, he deserves some of those. Considering all the "Yankee Stadium Specials" he's allowed over the years, he deserves a few warning track outs.
By gamescore (as WWJD expounded on), it was tied for the second best game of his career:
81: May 25, 2009 vs. Texas - 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K
80: April 21, 2010 vs. Oakland - 7.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
80: June 3, 2012 vs. Detroit - 9 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
Considering the '10 game was against a weak Oakland lineup (in which Kurt Suzuki was the cleanup hitter), I think we can eliminate if from contention for the top start of his career. So it comes down to the '09 Texas game and Sunday's effort. Vote in the poll below.
Hughes now owns the second best K/BB rate among Yankee starters (trailing only Andy Pettitte and his 28.1 IP) and the second best K rate (trailing, of course, CC).
We have to remember that Phil Hughes is just 25 years old (he'll turn 26 in three weeks), and that he's still learning how to retire major league hitters several times through the lineup. We already know he can be an effective reliever, but he's gone a long way toward proving that he can be an effective starter over the last month.
So: What has been the best pitched game of Hughes' career?