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Wednesday (Phil Hughes and the art of making adjustments) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Target Field Updated: May 28, 2014 - 11:00 AM

We wrote last week after Phil Hughes' most recent dominant start (at the time) about how successful he had been throwing mostly fastballs (mostly four-seamers), which had helped him work quickly, stay ahead in the count and keep a ridiculous string of walk-free innings together.

PitchFX data had him throwing, for the season, 70 percent four-seam fastballs

Our one caveat came at the end of that post: wondering if teams would start getting more aggressive with him early in the count, forcing him to adjust.

The answer came Tuesday in Hughes' next start ... and he answered brilliantly.

Texas knocked him around for two runs on four hits in the first two innings at Target Field. One hit came on a first-pitch fastball. Another came on a second-pitch fastball. Donnie Murphy's sacrifice fly, which would have been a three-run homer if not for a great play by Aaron Hicks, came on a first-pitch cutter.

In all, Hughes threw 31 pitches in the first two innings: 26 four-seam fastballs, four cutters and one two-seam fastball. All but one pitch was at least 90 miles per hour.

Hard, hard, hard. It had been working for Hughes, but he didn't quite have the same command Tuesday and he was getting smacked around.

So he and Kurt Suzuki clearly shifted the game plan. Here are the pitch breakdowns, per MLB.com, for the next five innings:

Third inning: 9 pitches – 3 cutters, 3 two-seamers, 2 curves and a 4-seamer

Fourth inning:   14 pitches -- 7 cutters, 2 curves, 4 4-seamers, 1 2-seamer

Fifth inning: 10 pitches -- 5 cutters, 3 4-seamers, 2 curves

Sixth inning: 18 pitches --  11 cutters, 6 4-seamers, 1 curve

Seventh inning: 16 pitches -- 7 4-seamers, 5 curves, 4 cutters

Totals for final 5 innings -- 67 pitches: 30 cutters, 21 4-seamers, 12 curves, 4 2-seamers.

PitchFX had him at 12 percent cutters for the season, with another 11 percent some sort of curve.

Those curves last night -- which Hughes throws a la Mike Mussina's knuckle-curve -- all floated in between 72 and 76 mph, keeping hitters off his hard stuff just enough. He threw them 18 percent of the time in those last five innings, higher than his season rate. Combined with a much different mix of hard stuff (only 31 percent of his pitches in the final five innings were four-seam fastballs, with 45 percent cutters and the handful of two-seam fastballs), it added up to just one run given up on four hits in innings 3-7 (and that run was a gift after Chris Parmelee and Eduardo Escobar botched a leadoff pop-up in the sixth).

And for the record, he still didn't walk anyone -- meaning he will not give up a walk in the entire month of May since his next start will be in June.

Hughes' ability to adjust on the fly was not only encouraging long-term, but also kept the Twins in a game that could have turned into a blowout and a fifth consecutive loss. Instead, he kept them close, they rallied in the ninth to win, and the outlook is much sunnier today than it otherwise would have been.

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Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston 3 Top 5th Inning
Baltimore 1
Milwaukee 2 Top 6th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 3 Top 6th Inning
NY Yankees 5
Washington 3 Bottom 5th Inning
Miami 2
Chicago WSox 0 Top 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
NY Mets 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Atlanta 0
Cleveland 0 Top 3rd Inning
Minnesota 0
Detroit 4 Top 2nd Inning
Kansas City 0
Seattle 0 Top 2nd Inning
Houston 1
Arizona 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
Colorado 0
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
St. Louis 2
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 8:35 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
Texas - L. Bonilla 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
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Carolina
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Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 0 2nd Qtr 14:45
So Florida 14
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(13) Georgia
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(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
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(3) Alabama
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(18) Missouri
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(8) LSU
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Memphis
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Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
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Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
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Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
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Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 9:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
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Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
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