Through his loss to the Orioles on May 1, New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes was 1-4 with a 7.48 ERA. When Mariano Rivera went down for the year with a season-ending knee injury two days later, there was plenty of buzz that Hughes could move back to the bullpen, where he excelled in 2009.
The Yankees stuck with the 25-year-old in the rotation, confident he would turn things around.
That faith seems to have been rewarded after another strong start by the right-hander, as Hughes tossed six innings of one-run ball Friday to lead the Yankees to a 7-2 win over the Nationals in Washington.
"We felt this was a guy that could win a lot of games for us, and that's what he's doing," manager Joe Girardi said.
Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts this month, and he's 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA since May 6. He credited an aggressive approach with his fastball for the turnaround, as he's relied less on his cutter and two-seamer, sticking primarily to his four-seamer and curveball.
"I feel better with everything, my stuff," Hughes said. "Aggressiveness has played a key role in that. I'm just attacking hitters. When I fall behind, coming with my fastball instead of trying to pitch around guys or get tentative."
The effectiveness of his fastball was evident Friday, as he allowed six hits and two walks, striking out nine to improve to 7-5 while lowering his ERA to 4.50.
"He was spotting his fastball," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "When you throw 94, 95 (mph) and you can put it wherever you want, it's tough. He did a good job of that."