BOSTON – This was the night Phil Hughes had been dreaming of all summer, ever since his fastball had mysteriously abandoned him. The ball was light in his hand, his arm was as long and loose as a whip. The scoreboard hinted that Hughes’ search was finally over, with radar-gun readouts of 94, even 95 mph, enough firepower to contain even the nuclear Red Sox.
For two innings, Hughes flipped the calendar back to his 18-win season in 2010, whipping through Boston’s lineup like it was calisthenics. “Everything felt better,” he said, striking out three of the first eight batters. Not even a mini-two run rally in the third inning dented the Yankees’ confidence in Hughes.
The euphoria, however, didn’t last long. In fact, by the time the Bombers slogged off the field in the ninth, snuffed out by Jonathan Papelbon, their world seemed to have turned upside down. A 9-5 loss underscored all the little things that’ve gone wrong against the Red Sox this season, starting with Hughes himself.
For all the early magic he brought to the mound, Hughes still made critical mistakes in the fifth and sixth innings – after that 94-95 mph fastball had been replaced by 92-93’s. David Ortiz crushed a two-out, two-run HR in the fifth, and Hughes was unable to finish off Josh Reddick in the sixth, issuing a one-out walk after being ahead in the count, 0-2.