NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes stayed up late the night before his first career postseason start. He wasn't out partying -- he just didn't want to sleep, so he tooled around online.
One of his sisters in California noticed that Phil was still on Facebook way after midnight.
"You need to go to bed," Kim Yubeta, Hughes' older sister, said in an instant message. "You have a big game [on Saturday]."
Hughes returned the message, explaining that he wanted to stay up late so he could sleep in and have less time to think about his Game 3 ALDS start. They messaged back and forth until Hughes finally went to bed at 2:30 a.m. ET.
They may have started a tradition, because Hughes dominated the Minnesota Twins, throwing seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits, striking out six and walking only one. In his 6-1 ALDS-sweeping victory over the Twins, the cool California kid was absolutely dominant, sending the New York Yankees to nearly a week of rest before they go to Tampa or Texas for the ALCS beginning Friday.
On Saturday, Hughes slept until 1 p.m., not wanting to wake up too early and be forced to think about the start.
"That was my game plan," Hughes said in the middle of the Yankees' clubhouse at midnight, his hair drenched in champagne, nearly 24 hours after the IM from his sister.
This was also the Yankees' game plan when they selected Hughes with the 22nd pick in the 2004 draft. GM Brian Cashman picked him to be a No. 1 starter. Now, at 24 years old, Hughes took another step toward doing that while bringing the Yankees closer to a second consecutive title.
"These are the spots you want to be in; especially to close out a series," Hughes said.
As Hughes spoke, with the champagne being sprayed across the room, A.J. Burnett handed him a blue towel. It seemed symbolic, because Hughes' emergence as certifiable playoff starter has made the disintegration of Burnett, the $82.5 million man, more digestible.
Right now, everything the Yankees have done all season looks good. Among the long list is how they have handled Hughes. The All-Star righty peaked in the Game 3 clincher, throwing calmly, controlling his fastball that was touching 94 on the gun and allowing the Twins to swing early in the count.
"They were kind of making it easy for me," Hughes said.
Hughes was kind of making it tough for them, which allowed pitching coach Dave Eiland to enjoy all the work he has done with Hughes. Eiland's promotion through the minor leagues to the Yankees' pitching coach has coincided with Hughes' ascent, so in another corner Eiland beamed as he reminisced about teaching Hughes a curveball.
"I've seen him grow up before my eyes," Eiland said.
So has his whole family. His parents, Phil Sr. and Dori, watched from their home in Tustin, Calif., 10 minutes from Angel Stadium. They enjoyed every pitch as their son joined Andy Pettitte (1996), Johnny Kucks (1956) and Waite Hoyt (1921) in Yankees history as only starters younger than 25 to throw seven scoreless playoff innings.
Hughes still lives at home during the offseason, having renovated the upstairs of his parents' house. In one corner of his living room, he has two chairs from the former stadium: One has a 6 on it, the other a 5, to represent his No. 65. He grew up a Red Sox fan because of his father's roots, but now everything is pinstripes.
Hughes is still just 24, a kid really. Kim always has been the one to tell him to go to bed. Late Friday night, it was no different as she saw him on Facebook.
"My sister and I," Kim said, referring to Hughes' other sibling, Molly, "we always try to send him a message, telling him how excited we were for him and that we love him."
Hughes knew exactly what he was doing. He had a plan, and he coolly executed it to perfection.