Pre-game Notebook: Location key for HughesSuddenly surging Yankees look to keep rolling against the Angels
On Sunday morning, the tone of this pre-game blog was that the Yankees were turning to Andy Pettitte to try to win their first series in a month and avoid falling to .500 for the first time since April.
Four days, a couple close calls and two blowouts later, the Bombers stand on the verge of a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who were (and still are) the only American League team with a winning record against the Yankees in the last decade.
Phil Hughes will be on the mound, and manager Joe Girardi made it very clear what Hughes needs to do to break a string of four straight tough starts since the All-Star break.
"Location, plain and simple," Girardi said. "Pitching is about location and changing speeds."
Hughes is now 4-11 with a 4.99 ERA overall and 0-2 with a 7.56 ERA in the second half, but while Girardi said he hasn't noticed the 27-year-old righty getting down about it at any point, it's indeed possible that Hughes' struggles are affecting him a bit.
"He seems to be able to go do his work and keep a good attitude about it, but I'm sure it eats at him a little bit," Girardi said. "He's human."
As for the lineup, Alfonso Soriano is hitting second today, looking to build on a two-game stretch in which he's gone 6-for-9 with four home runs, 13 RBI, and six runs scored and became just the third player in Major League history to have back-to-back six RBI games.
Soriano has had a pretty good month this week, and Girardi was jocularly blunt in discussing it.
"I just hope it continues," Girardi laughed. "I mean, what he's done the last two days is special. It's happened three times in Major League history, so it shows you how unusual it is. But he's a big bat, and hopefully it continues."
Alex Rodriguez is also in the lineup for the fifth straight day, and will indeed be playing third on a day game after a night game, something Girardi was pleasantly surprised to be able to have A-Rod do.
"Alex said he feels good; I wasn't sure if he could go back to back, and that's why I continue to communicate with him and check to see how he's doing," Girardi said. "He was off for a long time, he probably hasn't played a lot of day games after night games, and he's also 38, but he says he feels good."
Despite having played four in a row coming in, Girardi did posit that perhaps A-Rod's long layoff may actually be helping in terms of keeping him fresh for these stretches.
"That's something that goes through my mind: he hasn't had a lot of long stretches that he's played, so he's probably fresher than most of our guys," the skipper said. "(Curtis Granderson) too, because they haven't played a lot."
Granderson is the DH today and Ichiro Suzuki is the outfielder who is out of the lineup, getting a day off against a lefty. Ichiro's pursuit of 4,000 hits remains six away for now, and even though he is just 2-for-16 over his last four games played, Girardi doesn't think he's pressing for the milestone as much as Soriano admittedly was with his 2,000th hit.
"I haven't sensed it. I think it gets to be around when you're one or two away, so I think it's too early for that, but it's a possibility," Girardi said.
A few other roster notes:
-The Yankees have called up LHP David Huff from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a move that gives the team some flexibility in terms of distance and matchups with a series in lefty-laden Boston and a doubleheader with Toronto coming up over the next week.
"He's a guy that can give us some long distance, and is another lefty in the pen," Girardi said. "He's a guy who's been starting down there and we have a split doubleheader coming up….so yes, he's a long man, but I might use him if we have a couple lefties coming up in a row, too."
To make room, Dellin Betances was optioned to Triple-A and David Phelps, who recently had another setback with his injured forearm/elbow, was moved to the 60-day DL.
"He's not going pick up a ball for a while," Girardi said of Phelps. "I think the last day he pitched was July 4, and September 4 probably wasn't realistic anyway, so it was a pretty easy move…I think he can pitch in September, but I think Sept. 4 is too early."
-Derek Jeter is taking ground balls and likely batting practice today, and the Captain will head to Tampa to continue rehab when the team leaves for Boston. Girardi said that Sunday - the day Jeter is eligible to return - doesn't seem like a possibility, but the Toronto series is up in the air.
"He really hasn't run or run the bases, so we have to go day by day and see where he's at, but hopefully it's sooner rather than later," Girardi said. "I'm a guy that never puts a date on when a guy is coming back; that way, if he's not quite ready, all these red flags don't go up and I don't have to answer the questions…but when he's ready, he'll be here."
-Austin Romine is in the Yankees' lineup but Andrew Romine is not in the Angels', meaning that the brothers may not get to share the same field during a game as hoped. Andrew was called up by the Halos yesterday and played in last night's game, and while he didn't get to play against big brother, Austin did say they got a chance to catch up.
"We gave him a ride home, which took like an hour because of traffic of course, but we got to catch up and hang out for a bit," Romine said. "He's a great brother…he did all the things big brothers do, like beat me up and stuff, but I love getting the chance to hang out with him even for a little bit these days."
The two have been in the same building before but never both in the lineup at the same time, something Austin hopes changes soon - and as he joked, it'll be business as usual if it does happen.
"Man, it'd be awesome if I got to throw him out trying to steal," he laughed, "but no, it's business as usual. Between the lines, he's an opponent like anyone else."