Pressure on Yankees' Hughes in Game 3 of ALCS
New York down 2-0 heading into Detroit
While Yankees manager Joe Girardi spent Monday's off-day attending his father's funeral, his team had to be thinking about ways get its offense going against one of the game's top pitchers.
The Tigers already own a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series after winning twice in New York, and in Game 3 on Tuesday in Detroit, the Yankees' struggling offense will have to face last year's AL MVP Justin Verlander, who is coming off a complete-game shutout of Oakland in the deciding game of the previous series.
It puts a lot of pressure on Phil Hughes, who will start Game 3 for the Yankees after Girardi decided not to come back with CC Sabathia on short rest.
"I don't really feel like I can, you know, sort of feel any added pressure just because of the circumstances," Hughes said. "I just have to go out there and pitch, that's all it boils down to, not really worry about being down 0-2; that Verlander is on the mound; that we don't have our captain (Derek Jeter, who is out with a broken ankle).
"Those sort of things are going to be wasted energy, and all I really want to focus on is the Detroit Tigers lineup and doing the absolute best job I can do."
Hughes pitched a complete-game victory against Detroit on June 3, yielding four hits and one run, but he gave up eight hits and four runs to the Tigers in 4 1/3 innings on August 7.
"I'm just trying to throw out as many zeroes as I can," he said, "so that doesn't really change. (Verlander) is a great pitcher, but he's human. I feel if we can get Game 3, we have a good chance with CC going (in Game 4)."
Indeed, Game 3 is pivotal. Losing Game 3 puts the Yankees on the brink of elimination, but winning Game 3 gives the Yankees a chance to tie the series with Sabathia on the mound in Game 4.
But Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Verlander threw one of the best games he's ever seen in his shutout out the A's in his last start.
"Obviously he is at the top of the class," Leyland said Monday, "but I think I feel good about him because I think the maturity is so much greater than it was a couple of years ago. And I don't worry about the pitch count in the last game. He seemed to tune it up pretty good. I think when he gets focused in like he was in that game, he will be ready to pitch this game."
Girardi was not available to the media on Monday as he was attending his father's funeral in Peoria, Ill. So it's unclear whether he will make any significant changes to his lineup after being shut out in Game 2 and scoring in only one of the 21 innings in the series against the Tigers.
Leyland said it's just a matter of time before the Yankees' break out on offense.
He would like Verlander to pitch another complete game, but if he needs help to finish it off, Leyland is unsure who his closer would be Tuesday.
Leyland said on Monday he still considers Jose Valverde the Tigers closer, and that the team is going to need him to have prolonged success in this postseason. But Valverde has struggled recently and was not used in Game 2.
"I'll have a conversation with him tomorrow, see how he's feeling, see what the pitching coach thinks," Leyland said. "We'll see how the game plays out and go from there. I don't really have another set closer."