Hughes continued his impressive start to the season, turning in a gem every bit as fine as his near no-hitter in Oakland. In seven shutout innings, he allowed only four hits -- two of which were well-placed on the infield. He struck out six, and maybe most importantly, walked only one. He had handed out 11 free passes in his first 18 innings this season.
"His confidence is incredible. He's throwing every single pitch with authority," said Mark Teixeira. "Even if he misses his spot, he gets right back on the mound and goes after the guy on his next pitch. It's pretty fun to watch."
"He's probably the best guy that we have faced this year," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said, excepting Ricky Romero's near no-hitter against the White Sox. "He had unbelievable stuff."
With improved control of and confidence in his secondary cutter and changeup, Hughes has developed a four-pitch arsenal that rivals that of any starter in the American League. Just check out the league leaders in ERA, with second place occupied by New York's "fifth" starter, who's sporting a mark of 1.44.
"We'll see how long that lasts," Hughes said with a smile about his ERA, although he could have just as easily been talking about his position in the Yankees' rotation. "You come into the season and have labels on what starter you are, but they're just numbers. ... I really have confidence and trust in my stuff that I can get anybody out."
The best news for Hughes might be that he'll never have to face his own lineup, which battered Chicago starter Mark Buehrle and the White Sox bullpen to the tune of 12 runs on 16 hits. Included in that offensive barrage were four doubles and home runs from Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.
Indeed, it was Gardner who set the tone for the bounceback performance in the early innings. Prior to the game, he had grown weary of answering the same questions about his ability to fill Granderson's shoes in center and to hit off left-handed pitching. His actions spoke louder than his words.
Gardner opened the scoring against Buehrle with two outs in the second on a seeing-eye single that deflected off first baseman Paul Konerko's glove and snuck by second baseman Gordon Beckham into right field to plate Cano from second. Gardner's second hit required no such acrobatics. With one out in the fourth, he turned on a full-count fastball from Buehrle, depositing it into the right-field seats for his first home run of the season and a 2-0 Yankees lead. It was Gardner's first long ball since June 26 of last year -- a span of 167 at-bats -- and his first against a lefty.
"That's my one for the year," he joked. "Now I know how all the other guys feel when they hit one like that."
"When you see a guy like Brett Gardner hit a home run, you know things are going well," said Teixeira. "He'll talk about it for a long time. He'll admit he doesn't try to hit home runs, so when it happens, he's excited for a while."
Things also went well for Teixeira, who collected a career-high-tying four hits -- or more than one-third of the 11 he accumulated during his customarily cold April. Spending the afternoon as the designated hitter, Teixeira showed his versatility with hits from each side of the plate. His final four at-bats included singles to left, center and right and a double down the left-field line.
Teixeira didn't know whether to attribute the performance to the turn of the calendar, the fact that he was the DH or that he had Swisher behind him instead of the resting Alex Rodriguez.
"Swish will say [it was him]," Teixeira said laughing.
Sunday was a day full of laughter and positive vibes for the Yankees -- a day of reclamation after a somber Saturday. No single Yankee was responsible for the stirring victory, showing that some of the best performances are ones that reveal a team's depth and cohesiveness.