The Yankees were riding a season-high eight-game winning streak while Alex Rodriguez was on the disabled list with a calf injury. They had won 11 of their last 14 and pulled ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays by 2 1/2 games in the AL East. Against the Blue Jays this afternoon, however, Phil Hughes struggled in six innings of work allowing three home runs, and a couple more runs in the later innings put the game out of reach. The Blue Jays won 7-3, but at least A-Rod is batting cleanup again.

AP Photo

Initial Reaction:

Hughes made two glaring errors when a pair of 0-2 counts against Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill both turned into two-run homers. And, both times, it was a fastball that ran back in on the inner half of the plate. Hughes also hung a cutter to John Buck in the sixth, who thanked him with a solo shot into Monument Park. Hughes relied on his fastball a lot (three out of every four pitches were fastballs), and Jays’ hitters had no problem with it.

Today’s game marked the fourth time that the Yanks’ bats have faced Jays’ lefty Brett Cecil. And each time they’ve came away with a loss. The Yanks scored all three runs against Cecil, and had 11 total baserunners. They had a ton of opportunities to do more damage: in the third with runners on first and second, two outs; the fifth with runners on first and second, two outs; the sixth with a runner on second, one out; and the seventh with first and second, two outs. They just couldn’t capitalize on any.

Positives From The Game:

Even though the Yanks lost for the first time in over a week, I was happy to see A-Rod back out there.

Brett Gardner batting leadoff continues to look like a great move. He went 2-for-3 with a RBI and a walk on Sunday, and has reached base 19 times in his last seven games at the top of the lineup.

Negatives From The Game:

Hughes: 6 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, I BB, 5 K
Outside of the three home runs, he wasn’t bad. After consecutive starts of walking five, one walk is a good sign. But as his innings increase this season with each start, bringing him further and further away from his previous career high in innings pitched, Hughes looks to be more mistake-prone.

The fact that the Yanks have faced Brett Cecil four times this season and have managed a high of just three runs scored against him, and they’ve lost every single game that he’s started, makes me shake my head.

If I had told you in April that at the start of September, Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira and Posada would all have averages in the .260s, and the #2 starter would have an ERA north of 5 — would you ever guess the Yanks would have the best record in baseball? And aside from Tampa Bay it’s not even close?

Interesting Facts:

Hughes has struggled since the Yankees skipped his start in June and has watched his ERA rise from 3.17 to 4.29 in that span.

Gardner has a .467 OBP since August 13th.

Hughes has allowed 22 homers this year. 19 have come in the Bronx. Look for Hughes to make some road starts in October!

What’s Next?:

The Orioles roll into town for a three game set, starting with a Labor Day matchup on Monday afternoon.

Monday’s Probables: Brian Matusz (7-12, 4.72 ERA) vs. AJ Burnett (Whoa – 10-12, 5.15 ERA)