Phil Hughes was ready to make his most important start of the season when officials at U.S. Cellular Field delayed the start of the game due to rain--only problem was, it wasn't raining. The New York Yankees pitcher was warming up to face the Chicago White Sox when the grounds crew started rolling out the tarps and it was announced that the start of the game would be evaluated 45 minutes later because radar showed rain. The sky was dark but the only moisture was the sweat on the players and fans in the sweltering humidity.
It was unusual, even by baseball standards, to delay a game before even one single raindrop fell or a pitch was thrown.
The game finally started at 7:55 CST, with nary a drop of moisture, and the skies looked a lot more threatening while the tarps were being rolled up, then when they were laid out earlier. The temperature dropped 9-degrees in that hour of time.
Broadcasters speculated that the delay was a way to keep a storm-break in that hour from affecting the pitchers once they started throwing. A long break in the action could stiffen their loose arms. Look what happened to CC Sabathia the other day--twice.
Hughes might even be most grateful for prolonging the start of tonight's game. The struggling righthander has a lot to lose with a bad outing and a real rain delay, after he threw, could hinder his motion and, more importantly, his comeback. He comes into the game with a 1-3 record and 8.24 ERA and is competing with Ivan Nova for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Nova (9-4, 4.01 ERA) is coming off a fine performance against the Baltimore Orioles (7 innings, 2 earned runs) in his first game back with the Yankees after coming off the DL. He faces the same White Sox team on Thursday. It's fair to say the pitcher who fares the worst in this series will be demoted--even though manager Joe Girardi won't say so.
"Let's [Hughes] just pitch well tonight," said Girardi. "And [I] have a tough decision later."
Tonight Hughes' fastball was hitting 94 mph with good control and the Yankees hitters staked him to a 6-0 lead. Then the skies opened up.
In the middle of the seventh inning, a second rain delay was called--with real rain this time. By then, Hughes went six strong innings and gave up three hits and no runs.
Ironically, if the first faux-rain delay wasn't called, the whole game would have been over.
Next time screw the radar and just stick your head out the window.