Phil Hughes Breaks the Cycle

Orioles won't lose, but neither will Yankees for a change

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Hughes was huge on Thursday night.

    It had been a long, long time since the Yankees won two straight games.

    Not since Aug. 14 and 15 had the Yankees enjoyed the satisfaction of shaking hands with one another near the mound at the conclusion of back-to-back games. That last set of consecutive wins was actually three games in a row and they came against Texas, which made it a moment that felt like the Yankees could roll all the way to a World Series title.

    It's safe to say that was the last time anyone seriously harbored any such notions. The intervening month as punctured holes in the bow and stern in the good ship Yankees and it has been a race to bail the water before sinking ever since then. 

    That hasn't ended because Thursday's 2-0 win over the Red Sox gave the team two straight wins for the first time in a month. The Orioles simply won't lose, the won in 14 innings against Tampa on Thursday for yet another one-run win, so the Yankees didn't buy themselves anything more than the chance to stay in a tie at the top of the AL East on Thursday night. 

    Even that represented a break from the cycle that the Yankees have found themselves caught in over the last deflating month of baseball. The Yankees took an early lead and never gave it up because Phil Hughes brought his best stuff to Fenway Park while the Red Sox brought a lineup with fewer recognizable faces than an amnesia sufferers convention. 

    Hughes struck out seven and walked one over 7.1 shutout innings in a rare recent Yankees start where their pitcher didn't hand back a lead a short time after the offense found their way to one. Hughes also avoided allowing a home run, snapping a seven-start streak that dates all the way back to the very start of August. 

    Hughes has now turned in two straight good starts to break his own cycle of inconsistency, starts that the Yankees have desperately needed as they search for anything to cling to instead of falling into the abyss. The two offensive players they'd like to use for that task both came through last night as well. 

    Alex Rodriguez scored the first run of the game and Derek Jeter drove in the second one with a hit that tied him with Willie Mays for 10th on the all-time hits list, providing all of the offense on a night when the Yankees didn't need all that much of it. So it's back home to face the reeling Rays with a 5-5 record on the road trip that just ended, a record that seems much better than the memory of the road trip.

    Perhaps there's something to that last note, something about perceptions of how bad things have gotten agains the reality of the situation. If there is, you'll need to find a better way to illustrate it because there aren't any perceptions involved with baseball standings.

    The Yankees are tied at the top of the AL East with 19 games to play. That's all the spin you can possibly put on the situation.  

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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