Motor City Masterpiece: Phil Hughes Comes Through

Hughes outpitches Justin Verlander on Sunday in Detroit

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Wolverine State agrees with Hughes.

    The Mets saw one of their pitchers throw a no-hitter after 8,019 games in which their pitcher did not throw a no-hitter and it might not have been the most improbable pitching performance of the weekend.

    Even if you appreciate the Mets' historical ineptitude and Johan Santana's shoulder surgery, it was still a very good pitcher coming off a complete game shutout that did the trick against the Cardinals on Friday night. Phil Hughes was coming off a disaster in Anaheim and he's got a track record short on success, which makes his performance in Detroit on Sunday particularly shocking.

    Hughes struck out eight and allowed four hits while going the distance for a 5-1 win over the Tigers that gave the Yankees the series and secured a 6-3 record on their road trip. Hughes rode his fastball almost exclusively against the aggressive Tigers hitters, a strategy that paid off handsomely outside of a Prince Fielder home run.

    Hughes has allowed at least one home run in every start this season, a trend that feels a lot more problematic when it isn't the only blemish on the scoresheet over nine innings of work. Hughes was much better in May than he was in April, although nothing he did was close to as good as his work on Sunday.

    Does that mean Hughes has turned some kind of corner? Hughes' log is too full of extreme fluctuations to feel good about any prediction on that front, but he certainly looks like a more confident pitcher than he was during the first month of the season. 

    That confidence still hasn't quite rubbed off on the lineup. The Yankees got solo home runs from Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on Sunday, but they were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position to continue this season's longest-running and most frustrating storyline.

    The only hit they came up with in those situations was a Robinson Cano triple that wound up turning into a Little League home run when the Tigers threw the ball out of play while trying to snag Cano at third base. It's easier to figure out how everyone on Game of Thrones is related to one another than it is to figure out why a team with these offensive talents has so little luck getting hits with players on base.

    Having a pitching performance like Hughes' to take your mind off the bats is a welcome development, especially since you'd have to feel a bit more confident that the offense will come around than you did about Hughes' ability to have a start like that. If the Mets can throw a no-hitter and Hughes can toss a gem, then surely the Yankees will be able to hit at something close to their established level this season.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.