Sweat equity: Humber holding up

I've never seen a no-hitter in person. The closest I ever came to witnessing one for myself was back in 2001, when Danny Wright threw 6 1/3 no-hit innings.

The excitement was near-negligible, because Wright was all over the place. He had walked seven batters, so there was no way he was finishing the game. His day ended when Chris Gomez dinged him for a double on his 115th pitch. In the process, he established the threshold where I officially start getting excited about the possibility for a no-hitter. If Danny Wright could carry on the facade of greatness for that long, why couldn't anybody else?

On Monday, Phil Humber's hopes died on the Danny Wright Line. He lost Mark Teixeira by walking him after getting ahead 0-2, and Alex Rodriguez followed up by poking a single through the middle. The Yankees had a runner in scoring position with only one out, and he wasn't out of the woods.

Robinson Cano is on the short list of hitters you don't want to face with a runner in scoring position. He's a .320 hitter since 2009, and worse for Humber, he's a left-handed hitter who hammers righties.

Things can snowball after losing a no-hitter. You may remember that Gavin Floyd lost his no-hit bid and shutout in rapid succession in the eighth inning during his duel with Ted Lilly last year. Fatigue doesn't mix well with disappointment.

Humber didn't let the game get away from him, even though a couple of pitches did. This one plate appearance sums up his night pretty well.

Humber0426_250_mediumOn Gameday -- and you can click the image for a larger version -- this looks great, doesn't it?

That's only halfway right.

The first two pitches, while on the outside corner, were big, big, mistakes. Both times, A.J. Pierzynski set up on the inside corner, and Humber missed the target by a full plate. The second pitch courted real danger - Gameday calls it a changeup, Al Leiter called it a slider, and either way, it did nothing. Once again, Humber ended up on the other side of the plate. Cano fouled it back, and was disgusted with himself for doing so.

Here's where Humber gets credit. When the Yankees missed a hittable pitch, he seized the opportunity, and this Cano at-bat was no exception.

Pierzynski set up down and away for a backdoor breaking ball. Humber missed by far less this time, and he missed well - it was below the knees, and Cano couldn't do anything with it besides chop it foul.

He nailed Pitch No. 4. Pierzynski called for a letter-high fastball, and Humber finally nailed the target. Cano swung and missed. Right pitch call, right execution.

That's basically how it went for Humber all night long. First-pitch strikes allowed him to stay away from his fastball more than half the time, which kept Yankee hitters off-balance enough to be a hair off on the hangers. Humber was happy to seize the opportunities.

Acknowledging Humber's mistakes doesn't diminish what he accomplished on Monday night. He earned his big-boy pants, giving the White Sox the kind of start they absolutely needed. All's well that ends well when shutting down that potent of a lineup, and even more so when the scrap-heap sixth starter is doing it.

At the same time, there's no harm in dissecting his stuff. We've only seen him for 25 innings, and that's a third of his major-league career. Going forward, it's nice to know what he can and can't do, given that the Sox will be leaning on him more than they hoped.

So far, he resembles an apt replacement for Freddy Garcia in terms of style. He registers a few ticks better on the radar gun, he's less precise with his command, but the result is the same -- the more he can get away from his fastball, the better. Thanks to his success early in the count, he could afford to miss later. The Yankees gave him leeway, but he did his part to earn it.

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