When glancing at the matchups earlier in the week Justin Verlander vs. Phil Hughes stood out. Not in a good way though, Verlander the best pitcher in the game and Hughes just came off one of his worst outings of the season against the Angels. What chance did the Yankees have?
It might not have looked good on paper, but perhaps Hughes has turned a corner in his career because he went out there and showed that the month of May has not been a fluke. He managed to keep his pitch count under control and demonstrated excellent control of his fastball as he outdueled Verlander for the first 9-inning complete game of his career, at any level.
Things didn’t look to good for Hughes early this year. In his first five starts he was getting beat up and posted a 7.48 ERA even if his K/9 of 9.55 and BB/9 of 2.91 were solid. He was letting too many balls leak over the plate and hitters were happy to deposit them into the seats.
Lately though, he has been a much different pitcher. Even with his terrible outing against the Angels earlier in the week, Hughes’ numbers since May 6 have been impressive. In six starts he has made four quality starts, he has an ERA of 3.60 and even though his K/9 has dropped to 7.65, his BB/9 has dropped with it to 2.03. Most importantly, the home runs are down.
The biggest difference has been his command. Hughes has essentially morphed into a one-pitch pitcher who really only has an overpowering fastball. He throws a curve and a change, but they are mostly for show. Sunday he threw 121 pitches, 97 of those were fastballs. Command is key.
The command Hughes has shown lately has kept him off the middle of the plate where hitters can turn pitches into home runs our simply foul them off until they get themselves into a good hitters count. He might not have ever fully developed his curveball, but if he can spot his fastball the way he did Sunday, Hughes can be a reliable starter.