Nearly seven years ago, both New York teams used their first-round picks on pitchers with the initials of P.H. and last night for differing reasons they were key storylines for the Yankees and White Sox.
While Phil Hughes was consulting with team doctor Chris Ahmad and headed for a Tuesday MRI to determine if there is anything causing a mysterious dead arm, Phil Humber’s arm was very much alive.
Humber’s arm was so alive that Alex Rodriguez’s one-out single in the seventh was the lone Yankee hit off the ex-Met first-rounder in a 2-0 loss to the White Sox.
“To pitch the way he did against that lineup, it’s pretty amazing,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He did a tremendous job. I think he was spotting the ball very well and he threw strikes. He wasn’t behind that many guys. That’s why he had success.”
“I knew I hadn’t given up a hit about the fifth or sixth but I was a long way away from throwing a no-hitter,” Humber said. “I was trying to keep them from scoring and give our team a chance to win.”
Guillen’s amazement and Humber’s modesty occurred at about the same time Hughes’ dead arm saga took another turn in the wrong direction when the Yankees announced he was headed for a precautionary MRI. About four hours before Humber’s 100-pitch clinic began Hughes stopped his bullpen session early.
“The way he threw today, even if we'd faced him before, it was a tough day," Derek Jeter said. "He didn't fall behind too many guys. We had a couple of guys on there, but he was getting a lot of ground balls, especially when he needed it."
Jeter said that after seeing 11 pitches from Humber and grounding out twice and everything the Yankee captain was accurate.
Besides walks to Curtis Granderson in the fourth and Mark Teixeira in the seventh, Humber hit just two three-ball counts.
The first was to Granderson in the first and Humber went to his four-seam fastball for a fly out; the second was to Russell Martin in the third and that ended with the Yankee catcher swinging and missing at a changeup for the third strike.
The changeup was one of 30 thrown by Humber and Martin’s strikeout was one of five swings and misses among the 100 pitches. It was thrown for 16 strikes and complimented a four-seam fastball thrown 37 times and a curveball thrown 29 times.
“He had command of all four of his pitches and didn't really make any mistakes in the middle of the plate," Martin said of Humber. "He was just mixing speeds really well.”
Getting shut down by an unfamiliar pitcher is not a new event for the Yankees, who allowed those types of pitchers to go 7-3 last year.
It also isn’t the end of the world, especially compared with the White Sox problems going into last night, which included a 23-inning scoreless streak that was broken when Adam Dunn’s fourth inning groundout scored their only run off A.J. Burnett.
And when the Yankee bats were held without a home run for the third time and blanked for the second time, Burnett was handed a tough-luck loss despite his sharpest outing of the year and longest since May 30.
There was little Burnett did wrong and he was victimized by some aggressiveness by Granderson that did not work out in the fourth. Granderson attempted a diving catch on Carlos Quentin’s sinking liner and, the ball roll behind for a double and when Quentin scored, that made all the difference since Humber was pitching the best game of a career that has spanned five organizations (Mets, Twins, Royals, Athletics and White Sox).
“It's not surprising. Humber threw a heck of a game," Burnett said. "We hit, we rake, but there are times when you're going to come across guys who throw like that."
Humber threw exactly as Burnett described after giving up Rodriguez’s hit. With first and second, he blew away Robinson Cano with a high fastball and then threw five curves to Swisher, who weakly grounded out to first.
"It wasn't a bad pitch," Humber said of A-Rod's single. "He's a good hitter, though, and he put a good swing on it. You've got to tip your hat sometimes. Thankfully, I was able to get two outs after that and get us back in the dugout."
Besides their initials, draft year and status, Humber and Hughes have other similarities.
Both made their debut in 2007 as Hughes came up in late-April while Humber was a September call-up for the Mets and started a game during their collapse as the team tried to rest Pedro Martinez.
Another link is Johan Santana. The Twins traded Santana following the 2007 season and wanted Hughes from the Yankees. When Brian Cashman did not budge, they turned to Omar Minaya, who gave up Humber for Santana in January 2008.
It was not an entirely bad news day for Yankee pitchers yesterday as Pedro Feliciano confirmed that Dr. James Andrews said last week he would not need surgery and could spend at least six weeks rehabbing the torn capsule.
"We’re just going to follow the word Dr. Andrews says from experience,” Feliciano said. “Before he got pitchers that got the same injury – capsule injuries – and he just put them in rehab and it works. Why not do that and avoid the surgery and try to pitch again (this year)".
Granderson’s aggressive intentions also made a difference in the ninth when the White Sox added an insurance run was the routine pop-up that Rafael Soriano pointed at but did not chase. Jeter charged at it but was playing too deep to make the play and a few batters later, Paul Konerko drove in Chicago’s second run.
“I don’t think Jeet could have got to it,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think (Alex Rodriguez) could have. We encourage our pitchers to go after it, and sometimes pitchers just don’t. It’s on the other side of the ball. It’s a pretty well placed soft popup. Sori is probably the only guy that could have got it, and I’m not sure he would have got it either.”