Phil Hughes will start Game 4 for the Yankees on Thursday, a decision manager Joe Girardi arrived at even before Wednesday's 3-2, 12-inning win over the Orioles left New York one game from advancing to the American League Championship Series.
Hughes went 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts against the Orioles this season, including back-to-back outings in early September. Hughes recalled his six-inning, one-run no-decision on August 1 at Yankee Stadium, a start in which he took a new approach against Baltimore's hard-hitting lineup.
"I really used my slider quite a bit; I think that could be a big pitch against this team that really likes to hit the fastball," Hughes said. "It's a tough lineup."
Hughes went 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA in 32 starts this season, overcoming a dreadful start after going 1-4 with a 7.48 ERA in his first five outings. Hughes went 15-9 with a 3.82 ERA over his final 27 games, giving the Yankees stability in the back end of the rotation.
"I had a bad start to the season, had some bad starts mixed in, but looking at the positives, I felt like I was able to get the ball every five days and give us a chance to win as much as I could," Hughes said. "Kind of an up-and-down season, but you can't really look at the regular season when it comes to times like this. You just throw that out the window and just try to do the best job you can."
Thursday will mark Hughes' first postseason start since the 2010 ALCS, a series in which he went 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in two starts. Overall in his career, Hughes is 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 career postseason appearances, only three of which have been starts.
"You look forward to these big games, but at the same time you are going to have that little adrenaline boost and control that and make sure you get a good couple innings underneath you, and then the nerves will settle a little bit and you can kind of focus on pitching," Hughes said. "But it's going to be a challenge, and hopefully just come out of the gate throwing strikes and then things will settle down from there."