When Phil Hughes walked off the mound to a smattering of boos in the fifth inning, a walk off victory for the Yankees didn’t seem likely. However, thanks to some late clutch hitting and strong relief, pie was back on the menu by the end of the game.
In his first two innings, Hughes looked as if he had recovered some of the lost velocity that plagued his previous two starts. However, after topping out at 92 mph in the early going, Hughes’ velocity quickly dissipated and then his command betrayed him shortly thereafter. The signature pitch took place in the third inning, when the struggling right hander left a cutter over the middle of the plate to Nick Markakis, who planted it into the right field stands. From that point forward, Hughes seemed unable to command the inside corner, and the Orioles took advantage by building a 5-0 lead over the next three innings.
Although there is likely to be some speculation about Hughes’ hold on his spot in the rotation, the Yankees really have no choice but to keep running Hughes out to the mound every fifth day with the hope that he’ll find his missing velocity. Bartolo Colon has pitched well as Hughes’ designated mop-up man, but it would be terribly short sighted for the Yankees to reverse those roles based only three games. Of course, winning helps facilitate rational decisions, so perhaps in some respects, the Yankees comeback saved Hughes more than just a loss.
Phil Hughes’ Pitch Breakdown
|Pitch Type||Avg Speed||Max Speed||Count||Strikes/%||Swinging Strikes/%|
|FF (FourSeam Fastball)||89.05||90.9||46||32 / 69.57%||2 / 4.35%|
|CH (Changeup)||80.9||82||6||5 / 83.33%||0 / 0.00%|
|CU (Curveball)||70.5||72.2||11||8 / 72.73%||2 / 18.18%|
|FC (Cutter)||84.91||86.3||7||6 / 85.71%||0 / 0.00%|
Three shutout innings from Colon gave the Yankees a chances to slowly chip away at the Orioles lead, but a defensive play by Joba Chamberlain in the seventh proved to be the real turning point. Upon entering the game with one out and runners on first and third, Chamberlain threw an errant pitch to Mark Reynolds that skipped past Russell Martin. Pinch runner Felix Pie bolted for the plate, but the ball kicked back to the Yankee catcher. As Pie and Chamberlain converged at home, the right hander received the throw from Martin and blocked Pie from the plate with his right leg. After recording the out at home, Chamberlain then struck out Reynolds with a 96 mph fastball to escape the jam.
Chamberlain’s heroics in the eighth set the stage for Jorge Posada’s lead off game tying homerun, which came on closer Kevin Gregg’s first pitch. After Curtis Granderson doubled on his second pitch, it looked like the Yankees would be walking off in the ninth, but a failed bunt attempt by Russell Martin seemed to short circuit the rally. Unfortunately, what would normally be a high percentage play was rendered a questionable decision because of the struggles of both Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter, who exited the game hitting .150 and .233, respectively.
While Gardner and Jeter have been ice cold, Alex Rodriguez has been blazing hot. That’s why Mike Gonzalez’ lead off walk to Mark Teixeira in the 10th inning seemed to spell certain doom for the Orioles. Sure enough, following the free pass, Arod laced his second double into the left field corner, sending the winning run to within 90 feet of victory. Buck Showalter then unconventionally decided to pitch to Robinson Cano, a strategy that paid off when the Yankees’ 2B lined out to short. Showalter again went against the grain by having the lefty Gonzalez pitch to Swisher instead of offering a free pass to set up a double play for the slow footed Posada. Although Gonzalez has been a fly ball/high strikeout pitcher in the past, that was before his missed most of last season with an arm injury. With his left hander struggling and Swisher 5-10 versus southpaws on the young season, Showalter’s strategy was a bit of a head scratcher. In any event, Swisher took advantage of the favorable matchup and lifted a fly ball to the strong-armed Markakis in right field. It wasn’t a particularly deep fly, but Markakis’ throw sailed up the baseline, allowing Teixeira to slide home with the winning run and the Yankees to wrestle sole possession of first place away from the Orioles.
Yankees’ Walk Off Sac Flies, Since 1950
|5/26/1957 (2)||Yogi Berra||WSH||Dick Hyde||9|
|9/9/1961||Bill Skowron||CLE||Frank Funk||9|
|5/22/1962||Elston Howard||LAA||Tom Morgan||12|
|8/4/1963 (2)||Yogi Berra||BAL||Stu Miller||10|
|9/16/1969||Bobby Cox||DET||Daryl Patterson||13|
|6/4/1970||Horace Clarke||KCR||Moe Drabowsky||12|
|9/8/1971||John Ellis||BOS||Bobby Bolin||11|
|8/27/1972 (2)||Horace Clarke||KCR||Bruce Dal Canton||16|
|7/17/1973 (1)||Jerry Moses||MIN||Ray Corbin||12|
|9/16/1978||Thurman Munson||BOS||Mike Torrez||9|
|5/5/1979||Lou Piniella||OAK||Dave Heaverlo||9|
|6/5/1981||Rick Cerone||CHW||Ed Farmer||12|
|6/26/1982||Ken Griffey||CLE||Ed Glynn||17|
|6/18/1983||Dave Winfield||MIL||Bob Gibson||9|
|7/6/1989||Steve Sax||DET||Mike Henneman||11|
|10/1/1991||John Ramos||BAL||Mark Williamson||11|
|09/22/1992 (1)||Roberto Kelly||DET||John Kiely||12|
|5/7/1994||Randy Velarde||BOS||Jeff Russell||9|
|5/3/1995||Bernie Williams||BOS||Mike Hartley||13|
|8/30/2001||Bernie Williams||TOR||Scott Eyre||11|
|6/13/2004||Ruben Sierra||SDP||Jay Witasick||12|
|4/14/2011||Nick Swisher||BAL||Mike Gonzalez||10|