Tuesday night provided an easy way to understand how bad things have gotten for Phil Hughes.
After giving up four runs and two home runs in 5.2 innings of a 7-1 loss to the Orioles, Hughes was able to honestly say that he pitched better than he has all season. He was right, although you have to wonder what kind of future there is with Hughes if his best stuff produces outings like that.
In an attempt to make life easier on himself, Hughes stripped things down to the two pitches he used when he was coming out of the bullpen. It was just fastballs and curveballs all night, which resulted in better-looking pitches without solving all of the issues that were contributing to Hughes' dismal results.
On the top of the list is Hughes' habit of giving up home runs. The Orioles scored their first three runs on the two longballs, which means that Hughes is now giving up 2.9 homers per nine innings.
That's not a sustainable way to pitch. No matter how much better the results around the margins might be, the fact that you're always at risk of serving up a home run means that you're never actually cruising along over the course of the game.
Perhaps the reason that Hughes, Joe Girardi and others were so enthusiastic about the pitcher's performance is because there have been plenty of times when pitchers have pitched mediocre games like that and gotten bailed out by the offense. That wasn't the case against Brian Matusz.
Matusz snapped a 12-game losing streak, the longest in the majors, by pretty much dominating everyone on the team not named Derek Jeter. Jeter had three hits, lifting his average back to .400, but the rest of the Yankees managed just four hits over the course of the evening.
Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira were 0-for-8 between them, continuing the season-long trend of the middle of the order being a black hole offensively as those two players continue to slump their way through the schedule. If they were hotter, perhaps Hughes winds up with a victory for his troubles.
They aren't, though, and that means Hughes doesn't get that little notch in holster to further rationalize his performance as being better than it was. It might have been better than awful, but that doesn't make it good.