The thank-you cards from Phil Hughes to the Yankees' hitters should be in the mail shortly.
After picking up his first win of the season Thursday against Minnesota, Hughes credited the offense for having his back in the 7-6 victory. Hughes gave up six runs, only two which were earned, over 5 1/3 innings to improve to 1-2 on the year.
"We got the win, that's really all that matters," Hughes said. "First inning was a rough one. I had to find a way to put that behind me and continue on. Thankfully our offense came up big tonight. Just happy to be on the winning end of that."
Hughes entered the game having tossed 183 pitches over a combined eight innings of work in his first two two starts. In those eight innings, opponents totaled 13 hits, hit three home runs, and walked four times as Hughes went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA. His manager, Joe Girardi, called this a "personality start" for the right-handed pitcher.
The first inning started in a horrific manner as Hughes could not work around an error by Eduardo Nunez. With two outs, he yielded a walk, two-run single and two-run double that gave the Twins a 4-0 lead. Hughes also tossed 32 pitches in the inning, a problem for him as he came into the came averaging 22.9 pitches per inning.
Thankfully for Hughes, the offense went right to work and scored three.
"Just to be back in the game that quick is huge," Hughes said. "I can wipe that first inning from my memory and to move forward and know it's a fresh game, that's a big lift."
From the second on, Hughes looked to be a different inning as he cruised in the middle innings. He retired 10 of 11 Twins at one point from the second to fifth inning, with the line hiccup coming on an one-out double that he worked around. He had two perfect innings during that stretch. Hughes said he tried to get downhill on his pitches after leaving some pitches up in the zone in the first, changing the eye level on hitters.
The Yankees gave Hughes a two-run lead to work with after the second inning and boosted the lead up to three before Hughes served up a two-run shot to Ryan Doumit that sliced the lead to 7-6 in the fifth. After striking out Danny Valencia, Hughes departed, having given up six hits and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings.
"I thought he was better," Girardi said. "The first inning, the error opened up the inning for the four unearned runs and he settle down nice from innings two through five. In the sixth, he got ahead of (Justin) Morneau and wasn't able to put him away, and then gave up a home run on a changeup. Overall, I though it was better today."
While the outing was far from perfect, it was the best one yet for Hughes, as evident by those four shutout innings. As he looks to get on track, he can draw from certain aspects of the start.
"I felt like my stuff was good," Hughes said. "Fastball was pretty good tonight and my curveball was probably the best it's been in a while. There's some encouraging things, obviously it's far from a good outing, but still some positives I can look at."