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10/29/09 2:00 AM EST

Hughes and Co. struggle in Game 1

Yankees' bullpen unable to follow Sabathia's lead

NEW YORK -- While Yankees starter CC Sabathia dominated all Phillies hitters not named Chase Utley on Wednesday, the five relievers who followed Sabathia had trouble with them all.

In a 6-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series, the Yankees' bullpen combined to allow four runs on five hits and three walks.

It started with Phil Hughes, whose dismal eighth-inning outing continued what has become an increasingly disturbing trend for the once-dominant setup man.

Hughes opened the eighth with back-to-back walks to Phillies leadoff man Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, and exited without recording an out. In the abbreviated 15-pitch outing, Hughes worked from behind to both batters, allowing Rollins to easily steal second base on Victorino's 3-0 count.

"I think he was trying to be too fine," pitching coach Dave Eiland said of Hughes, who exchanged words with home-plate umpire Gerry Davis before walking off the field. "Instead of just attacking, he was trying to be too fine. Instead of being in attack mode, he was pitching maybe -- I'll stop short of timid -- but he was trying to be too fine."

Eiland, who has attributed a mechanical problem to Hughes' struggles, said that wasn't the case on Wednesday night.

"There were some close pitches. They weren't strikes, but they were close," Eiland said. "It's possible he had some jitters out there."

Whatever the reason, Hughes hasn't been the same 23-year-old wunderkind who provided a solid bridge to Mariano Rivera this season. Following his first appearance out of the bullpen on June 8, the Yankees' bullpen went 27-7 with a 3.37 ERA and 37 saves in 105 games. In 54 games prior to Hughes joining their ranks, New York relievers were 13-10 with a 4.88 ERA and 14 saves.

Phil running on empty
After recording a 3.04 ERA during the regular season, Phil Hughes has a 9.64 ERA and has retired just 14 of the 27 batters he's faced in the postseason.
Date Opp. IP H ER BB SO
Oct. 28 PHI 0 0 2 2 0
Oct. 22 @LAA 1/3 2 1 1 1
Oct. 19 @LAA 1 2/3 1 0 0 1
Oct. 17 LAA 2/3 1 0 0 1
Oct. 11 @MIN 2/3 2 0 0 0
Oct. 9 MIN 2/3 2 2 1 1
Oct. 7 MIN 2/3 1 0 0 2
Totals 4 2/3 9 5 4 6

Hughes' five postseason runs over 4 2/3 innings is more than he allowed in 38 eighth-inning appearances during the season. It's also the equivalent to his combined earned run total in June, July and August -- a stretch of 30 games. In seven postseason games, Hughes has allowed a staggering nine hits and four walks, helping balloon his ERA to 9.64

"Hughsie battled," said catcher Jorge Posada, who, along with Rivera, pulled Hughes aside for a talk prior to the World Series. "That's all you can ask for. [He] fell behind on some of the hitters and then he had to come [out]."

Hughes was followed by Damaso Marte, who got two quick outs before manager Joe Girardi summoned rookie Dave Robertson. A strikeout specialist, Robertson walked Jayson Werth before giving up a two-run single to Raul Ibanez.

Brian Bruney didn't do anything to slow the Phillies' offense in the following inning, allowing a one-out double to No. 9 batter Carlos Ruiz, followed by back-to-back singles to give Philadelphia its third run off Yankees relief. Bruney was also charged with Rollins' run, which came against Bruney's replacement, Phil Coke.

Bruney, who made his 2009 postseason debut, was more disappointed in the location than the quality of his pitches, saying he wished he could have had the opportunity back.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

"I don't have any excuses for being off too long or anything like that, I felt more than ready," Bruney said. "I'm actually excited. Hopefully Joe puts me back in there. I know they are searching for some late-inning help, so I think it was good to get that [first outing] out of the way."

Given Hughes' struggles, the Yankees could be open to trying new arms to bridge to Rivera. But if Girardi had given that option any thought, he wasn't ready to tip his hand after Wednesday's loss.

"We will continue to talk to him," Girardi said of Hughes. "I mean, he's been great for us all year. He walked two guys and ended up hurting us [Wednesday night], but we still believe in him."

Added Robertson: "I don't think there's any confidence problem out there [in the bullpen]. Like I said, we had a bad day. ... Just got to put it out of our minds and come back tomorrow."

Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.