OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—When the ball pounded off of Phil Hughes’(notes) left forearm, he thought it would go straight up in the air. It glanced off his chest and instead dropped several feet in front of the mound.
He just plain lost track of it—and lost his no-hit bid, too.
Hughes took an impressive no-hit try into the eighth inning Wednesday night, losing it when Eric Chavez(notes) bounced a hard comebacker off the pitcher’s forearm and chest in the New York Yankees’ 3-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.
“To have it end that way is kind of a bummer. That’s the game,” Hughes said. “Yeah, frustrated. It’s so hard to do, to throw a no-hitter. You don’t get many opportunities to do it.”
Hughes (2-0) struck out a career-high 10 in the Yankees’ sixth straight win, with his parents Phil and Dori in the stands to see it after driving up from Orange County for his outing. Hughes was in complete control until Chavez opened the eighth with that one-hopper back to the mound.
Hughes had little time to react, and the 23-year-old righty searched for the ball as Chavez hustled for a single.
“Sometimes the last place you look is right in front of you, or you look down at your feet. He was looking for the baseball and just couldn’t find it,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Hughes said it would have gotten through for a hit had he not stopped the ball. Chavez had a good feeling when he made contact.
“I didn’t see it hit him but I knew I hit decent enough,” Chavez said. “He didn’t find it and that was good. You don’t go up there in a close game thinking you need to break up the no-hitter. Everybody knows one swing of the bat and you’re right back in the game. Maybe if it’s 5-0, 6-0, yeah, it’s ‘somebody get a hit!”’
“From the get go I knew he had good stuff,” Posada said. “We talk about the command of his fastball, that was the difference.”
Hughes was trying for the Yankees’ first no-hitter since David Cone’s perfect game against Montreal on July 18, 1999. Hughes had come close before— in 2007, during his second major league start, he had a no-hitter going through 6 1-3 innings at Texas before he suddenly hurt his left hamstring and had to leave the game.
“After I got that first out in the seventh I was just hoping I didn’t go down with something,” Hughes said, chuckling. “That was all I was thinking about.”
Hughes won the fifth spot in the Yankees’ rotation by pitching well in spring training, and his outing at Oakland was his best performance this season. After a one-out walk to Daric Barton(notes) in the first inning, Hughes retired 20 straight batters before Chavez’s infield hit.
Overall, Hughes gave up only one hit in 7 1-3 innings and walked two.
Two batters after Chavez got aboard, Hughes walked Gabe Gross(notes) and was done. He was charged with Oakland’s lone run in the standout 101-pitch performance after pinch-hitter Jake Fox(notes) had an RBI single off Joba Chamberlain(notes).
“I’ll take 28 to 30 more of these if I can,” Hughes said.
A-Rod and Robinson Cano(notes) hit back-to-back triples to start the fourth off $10 million A’s ace Ben Sheets(notes) (1-1). Posada followed Cano’s hit with an RBI groundout. Brett Gardner’s(notes) RBI single with two outs in the ninth provided an insurance run.
“My stuff was a lot better but I should have been able to throw more strikes and get deeper in the game,” Sheets said. “How Hughes pitched is irrelevant to me. You look back and, yeah, he pitched a great game.”
New York matched the 1926 Yankees’ franchise record by winning its first five series of the season.
Hughes shut down the A’s by pounding the zone with his spot-on fastball and mixing in an effective curveball. He quieted the crowd of 30,211 for much of the chilly, breezy spring evening in the Bay Area. It was Hughes’ first career start against Oakland.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Girardi said. “His stuff was great tonight. Ahead in the count all night and it put them on the defense. His cutter was outstanding to the lefties. His curveball was great and his fastball command was great. It was a brilliant performance.”
Hughes began last season in the minors then was called up April 28. He made seven starts before becoming a reliable reliever as closer Rivera’s primary setup man over the final three months.
The Yankees have held opponents to three or fewer runs in each game during their winning streak.
Both managers mixed up their lineups for the middle game of the series. Randy Winn(notes) earned a start in right field for the Yankees in place of Nick Swisher(notes). Oakland manager Bob Geren rested leadoff hitter and center fielder Rajai Davis(notes) for part of the night, moving Cliff Pennington(notes) to the top of the order and putting catcher Kurt Suzuki(notes) in the cleanup spot.
The umpiring crew changed, too. Ed Rapuano was replaced for the final two games of the series after taking a foul ball off his facemask Tuesday night as plate umpire. The A’s said Rapuano was taking a few days off as a precaution. Pacific Coast League umpire Mike Muchlinski was called up to take Rapuano’s spot.
NOTES: New York last hit consecutive triples on Aug. 25, 2007, by Melky Cabrera(notes) and Johnny Damon(notes) vs. Detroit. … A’s LF Travis Buck(notes) was a late scratch with a strained right oblique muscle, replaced by Eric Patterson(notes). … A’s reliever Jerry Blevins(notes) was pulled off the mound after experiencing back spasms. … A high school team from nearby Vallejo, the hometown of Sabathia, hung out on the field before the game. Sabathia pitches Thursday afternoon’s series finale. … Harlem Globetrotter Moo Moo Evans threw out the ceremonial first pitch.