Postgame notebook: Hughes struggles in finale of doubleheader
The offense was few and far between against lefty Chris Capuano and two relievers; the Bombers recorded just three hits and, after Robinson Cano was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth inning, Dodgers pitching retired 16 in a row before Brandon League hit Jayson Nix with a pitch with two outs in the ninth inning.
Nix, who singled and moved to third on that Cano play in the fourth, was the only runner to reach scoring position at any point, and he was left stranded after Cano's out and two straight fly balls.
"We struggled and couldn't get anything going; we had some chances, but we just couldn't get it going," Lyle Overbay said. "Chris kept the ball down and we didn't get many chances to score runs."
Capuano finished six innings giving up all three of those hits, and the combo of Chris Withrow and League allowed just that late hit batsman in finishing out the dominant victory.
"He mixed it up real well, threw strikes and kept the ball down," Overbay said of Capuano, who was making his first start since May 29. "He kept us off-balance; I came up with him through the Minors and I know that if he's keeping the ball down he's pretty effective."
Meanwhile, on the other side, Phil Hughes struggled early, allowing two runs on five singles in the first inning, escaping any further trouble by getting catcher Tim Federowicz to ground into a 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded.
"His fastball was running back into the middle of the plate and he was missing his spots, and I think their first six hits were all on fastballs," manager Joe Girardi said. "You have to hit your spots; you can miss your pitches, but it comes down to not making mistakes and he made some mistakes."
"I really didn't have good control in the first inning, and fortunately I got a double play ball to get us out of that," Hughes said. "From then on it was just a struggle to find any sort of rhythm. My pitch count got up just trying to battle back, and I wasn't able to give us as many innings as I wanted to."
In what turned out to be the start of a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like night, Hughes got through six innings, but gave up 10 hits and five runs in the odd innings and just one hit in the even. He noted that his fastball stayed down, which prevented him from giving up any home runs or walking anyone, but that kind of split mirrors his season - which has been consistently inconsistent from one start to the next - and the skipper intimated that a breaking point may be near.
"Well, now," Girardi said when asked at what point the team needs to see some consistency one way or the other. "We need all of our players to be consistent, that's what you strive for, and right now, he's struggling with that."
"The biggest thing is being consistent and giving us a chance to win every time out," Hughes noted. "Giving up two runs in the first inning is not the way you want to start, it gets guys pressing a little bit offensively…I have to be better, and that's pretty much it."
Given all that, however, Girardi was noncommittal when asked if Ivan Nova's improvement in Triple-A and the pending return of Michael Pineda means Hughes might need to be worried about his rotation spot.
"I haven't really thought about moving Phil out of the rotation; I think he's capable of doing a good job for us, but right now he's just struggling," the skipper said.
"My only concern is pitching well; things that I can't control I don't concern myself with," Hughes added, "so my number one baseball priority is pitching well every five days and that's really all I worry about."
Other news and notes out of Wednesday's finale:
-Adam Warren pitched the final three innings, allowing a home run to Yasiel Puig - one he admitted came on a slider that he left up and over the plate - and a single to Adrian Gonzalez before retiring nine in a row, and he was happy with his first performance back after a quick detour to Triple-A: "I gave up the homer, but I feel like I settled in after that, and I was trying to eat up some innings and get as many outs on as few pitches as I could…I think I just locked it in after the single, bared down, and got in a rhythm."
-Speaking of Puig, he was 2-for-4 with a homer, a single, a hit by pitch, a steal and two runs scored, and Overbay for one was impressed with the Cuban sensation: "He's the real deal. He squared up every ball except one, and even that last one he hit pretty good for being out in front. He's aggressive, (and his bunt) shows he doesn't take anything for granted and knows his role."
-Of Cano's baserunning in that fourth inning, Girardi said that "he just took too wide of a turn (around first base), and I'm not really sure why, but he did."
-On the bad side of hitting, Austin Romine went 0-for-2 to make him 3-for-16 this month, but Girardi said he was still confident in his reserve catcher: "He's done a good job behind the plate; he's struggled offensively, no doubt about it, but he's done a good job back there."
-Last word (through an interpreter) goes to Zoilo Almonte, who made his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter for Romine in the ninth: "Something came over me (when I walked up to the plate)…it didn't exactly go how it hoped it would because I made an out, but I'm still very, very happy to be here."