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The American League Championship Series - Game 6
Dan Port | Friday October 22nd, 2010
Phil Hughes takes on the Cobra in Game 6 of the ALCS  (AP)
Phil Hughes takes on the Cobra in Game 6 of the ALCS (AP)

The New York Yankees managed to survive at least another game and keep their repeat hopes alive in beating the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, but face a tough test to keep the train rolling on Friday in Arlington.  The loss of one of their top hitters Mark Teixeira certainly hurts the Bronx Bombers, but this is a team that is certainly not short on hitting talent and proved it by defeating Texas in a convincing 7-2 win in Game 5.  Today's game brings a pair of interesting starters to the forefront, as neither pitcher has a lot of experience tossing as many innings as they have in 2010, despite their regular season successes.  Whether fatigue will be a major issue or not is anyone's guess, but if these MLB playoffs have taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected.

Phil Hughes takes on the Cobra in Game 6 of the ALCS  (AP)

Phil Hughes - New York Yankees (1-1, 5.73) vs. Colby Lewis - Texas Rangers (1-0, 1.69)
One of the hottest starters from the outset of the 2010 baseball season was Yankees righthander Phil Hughes.  Hughes, who worked mainly out of the bullpen in a very successful 2009 season (8-3 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 96 strikeouts in just 86 innings) became a full-time starter this year and burst onto the scene with a 7-1 record and a 2.54 ERA in his first 10 starts.  However, he posted just a 5.11 ERA in his final 21 games (19 starts) and is possibly the most lackluster 18 win pitcher in recent baseball memory.  He didn't endear himself in his latest playoff start either, as he allowed 7 runs on 10 hits in just 4 innings in Arlington on October 16th.  The Yankees are hoping that Hughes can reclaim some of his early season success and force another game in this exciting series.

Whether or not Hughes can do that, though, is questionable.  Aside from his disastrous playoff start, Hughes had actually been extremely successful against Texas in his career, with 15 scoreless innings in 3 regular season games (2 starts) with just 3 hits and 4 walks allowed, good for a zero ERA and a 0.46 WHIP, plus 13 strikeouts.  Those innings include his second career start back in 2007, where he tossed 6.1 hitless innings before being removed due to injury.  Simply put, Game 6 may hinge on which Phil Hughes shows up on Friday- the one who has dominated the Rangers at times and was unstoppable early in 2010, or the one who struggled down the stretch, got shelled in his last start, and may not be able to handle a 200 inning workload this year.

Inning counts have, at times, been a concern for Texas' Colby Lewis this year as well, as Lewis pitched far fewer innings during his last two seasons as a member of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp over in Japan.  Lewis was a strikeout machine overseas, logging 369 K in 354 innings and asserting himself as one of the best pitchers in his league with a WHIP around 1.00 and an ERA under 3.00.  His success as a member of Texas' rotation has been similar, but his 12-13 record and 3.72 ERA were not as ace-like as his overseas numbers.  Nevertheless, Lewis has become a fan favorite and a key piece of the Rangers rotation, and his two solid post-season starts (10.2 innings, 2 ER) have helped put to rest some debate about whether the 31 year-old comeback player could handle an MLB workload (as he averaged just 177 innings per season for Hiroshima).

Lewis outdueled Hughes in his last start, a 5.2 inning, 6 hit, 2 run, 3 walk, 6 strikeout effort on October 16th.  He also pitched slightly better at home this year, posting a 3.41 ERA in 14 starts (87 innings) in Arlington, with a 6-4 record in those contests, so that certainly bodes well for him in this contest.  His swing-and-miss style fits well against the Yankees, and they'll likely need to put the ball in play more to defeat him in this one.  The Rangers have the advantage of still possessing a lead in this series, but if Lewis cannot help his club get a victory in this one, the Yankees would be amped to disappoint the upstart Rangers and prevent them from reaching their first ever World Series.

In summary, these two unlikely rotation keystones will be vital to the destiny of both of their teams, and both will have to bring their very best against a pair of heavy-hitting American League rosters.  In what is shaping up to be one of the best playoffs in recent MLB history, every game has the potential to be unforgettable.  This one is no different.
Dan PortDan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at dan@baseballpress.com or check him out on Twitter @danport and at DanielPort.com.