Phil Hughes attempts to bounce back from a dreadful performance his last time out when the New York Yankees continue a three-game set this evening against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium.
Hughes lost for the first time in five decisions on Wednesday against Atlanta, as he surrendered six runs - four home runs - in just 4 1/3 innings to fall to 7-6 on the year to go along with a 4.94 ERA. He had won each of his previous three starts.
"He didn't really pitch any different," said manager Joe Girardi. "He just didn't locate as well."
The 19 home runs Hughes has allowed this season are second only to Seattle's Jason Vargas' major league-leading 20.
"I'm a fly-ball pitcher," Hughes said. "I don't get ground balls very often, and if I don't have my best fastball, they're not popups or swing-throughs, they're hit hard in the air. Especially here, that's not a good combination."
Hughes has faced the Indians four times and is 2-1 against them with a 3.52 ERA.
Cleveland, meanwhile, will counter with righty Justin Masterson, who has been brilliant in winning his last two starts. Masterson went the distance to beat the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, limiting them to just one unearned run and three hits. He also struck out nine without walking a batter and improved to 4-6 to go along with a 3.98 ERA.
"It was going down like a bowling ball," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Masterson's signature sinkerball.
Over his past four trips up the hill, Masterson has fashioned a 1.24 ERA, allowing just four earned runs over a span of 29 innings. In that stretch, he has amassed 27 strikeouts and six walks. In his last three starts -- against NL opponents (St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati) -- the righty has a 0.39 ERA (one earned run in 23 innings) with 24 strikeouts and three walks.
"We feel right now," Acta said, "the way he's throwing the ball over his last four outings, we have the guy that we had last year who, every five days, regardless of who's pitching for the other side, we have a very good chance to be in the game."
Masterson is 2-2 lifetime against the Yankees with a 2.76 ERA in eight games (4 starts).
He will have his work cut out for him tonight against a Yankees team that leads the majors with 115 home runs. In Monday's opener, Robinson Cano and DeWayne Wise each homered and drove in three runs, while Hiroki Kuroda pitched well into the eighth inning as the Yankees picked up a 7-1 win.
Nick Swisher also homered behind Kuroda (7-7), who got back to .500 thanks to surrendering just one run on five hits and two walks in seven-plus frames.
Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (3-5) was quickly pulled after surrendering six runs on six hits and a pair of walks in just three innings.
"You could tell from the get-go he didn't have command of his pitches," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Tomlin.
The Yankees went 4-3 against the Indians last season, including 3-1 in the Bronx.