‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Often maligned for his tendency to surrender homers, Phil Hughes has transformed into a dependable arm for the Yankees down the stretch.

Last night, Hughes threw 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball and fanned seven Red Sox batters en route to a 2-0 victory.  With the Yankees’ offense sputtering, it was vital that Hughes was in complete command when he took the mound at Fenway Park.

Outside of Andruw Jones’ fourth-inning sacrifice fly and Derek Jeter’s seventh-inning bloop single RBI, the Bombers suffered from their usual issues of stranding runners on base.  The Yankees left 19 runners on base and only managed five hits.

With the Baltimore Orioles defeating the Tampa Bay Rays earlier on Thursday, the pressure was on Hughes to deliver a victory, keeping the Yankees even with the Orioles for first place in the AL East.  His victory gave the Yankees their first two-game winning streak since August 15.

August 15? Some Yankees fans might be shaking their heads in disbelief, but it’s true.  That’s how mediocre the Yankees have been down the stretch.

Hughes’ previous start came against the Orioles on September 7.  He gave the Yankees six solid innings of work and only surrendered two earned runs at Camden Yards.  Considering the way the Orioles have smacked around Yankees pitching, that’s pretty impressive.

Going into June, Hughes’ ERA was 5.64.  Ever since, he’s been a steady arm that manager Joe Girardi can trust.  In his last six outings, Hughes is 4-2 with a 2.29 ERA.  He’s taken his 2012 totals to 15-12 with a 3.96 ERA and a WHIP of 1.25.

Hughes has proven he’s an arm the Yankees can lean on in their playoff push.

Do you have full confidence in Hughes down the stretch following his recent run of success?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.

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