Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I Don't Need the Whole Song...Just a Taste

Now that I've calmed down enough to rationally...FALSE. I HAVE NOT CALMED DOWN.

Last night's game was one of the most excruciating experiences I've had as a sports fan, given the Yankees' rough start and spate of injuries.

Of course, being me, I started thinking about the no-hitter in the third inning, but by the seventh, I was excited, superstitious and legitimately hopeful about the possibility. Phil Hughes had amazing stuff, and the weak Texas lineup looked overmatched.

Going from that high to the devastation of watching Hughes clutch his hamstring while Posada waved for Gene Monahan has rendered me an emotional cripple. The injury, which will sideline Hughes 4-6 weeks, tears apart all of the good that came from last night's game — namely, an easy win and a dominating performance from Phil Hughes.

With Mussina and Wang on the comeback trail, the Yankees were looking at a solid-to-great top four of Wang, Pettitte, Mussina and Hughes. Now, they're right back to scrambling, especially with Jeff Karstens shelved for a while with a broken fibula. What should have been a super happy fun time May Day win that buried a brutal April and looked ahead to a brilliant future has been tainted.

Once again, the Yankees' conditioning program has been called into question, with yet another muscle pull by a member of the pitching staff. For me, the Hughes injury is the tipping point.* These tweaks and strains are too numerous now to chalk up to coincidence.

This DL stint will certainly make the Yankees' job turning their season around significantly more difficult. The momentum potentially gained from last night's win is sitting in shatters in the visitors' clubhouse in Arlington, along with the withered remains of Phil Hughes's hamstring.

* - Fuck the phrase "the tipping point," and fuck Malcolm Gladwell.

Other notes from the Phil Hughes performance

Let's pretend for a moment that the injury never happened and we just have a game to analyze.

Hughes turned in a phenomenal performance, forcing 8 ground balls to only 3 fly balls, striking out six and walking three. Any concerns from his shaky first start were alleviated almost immediately, as Hughes was popping the radar gun, getting grounders at will and keeping his pitch count down. He also showed impressive ability to get hitters to swing through his pitches.

Particularly fun to watch was the first-inning at bat when Hughes threw three successive change-ups to Mark "I Suck in the First Half and my Name Sucks to Spell" Teixeira, with Tex whiffing mightily at all three. Gutsy call from Posada and the kid.

Late in the game, Hughes even had the confidence to shake Posada off a few times. Two starts, and one miserable setback, into the Phil Hughes era, and it's looking promising indeed.

Other notes from the game

I liked what Joe Torre did with the batting order last night. Batting Bobby Abreu first makes a lot of sense with Damon out, given his insanely high on-base rates and current lack of power. Unfortunately, I think Torre made the move more to shake Abreu up than out of any nod to statistical principles. And, man, Abreu does look lost at the plate right now.

I also like batting Giambi third, ahead of ARod, splitting up the Giambi/Matsui lefty-lefty stretch. And Melky Cabrera and Minky deserve to be nowhere but as far down in the order as possible.

Derek Jeter has hit in an amazing 57 of his last 59 games. Jeter is simply a hitting machine, although his power continues to fade gradually as his early-thirties become his mid-thirties.

Torre needs to institute a rule that Minky can never, ever swing with a 3-1 count. And sometimes not on 3-2, depending on the game situation.