Having played his first seven seasons with an AL East team, Minnesota's Phil Hughes knows just how difficult it is to pitch against the division's clubs.
Their latest game aside, the visiting Twins have experienced success against AL East opponents this season, and Hughes' pitching has played a role.After bouncing back from a difficult outing, the right-hander tries to earn an eighth win in nine decisions Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox.While pitching for the New York Yankees, Hughes (7-2, 3.17 ERA) was 18-22 with a 5.12 ERA in 61 starts against the AL East, including one in the postseason. In his first season in Minnesota, he is 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in five matchups. He has a 1.65 ERA in the last four, which includes a 10-inning win over Boston on May 15, when he allowed one run while striking out eight in six innings.He is 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA in his last five starts against the Red Sox after going 1-5 with a 7.12 ERA in his first nine.Hughes tossed seven scoreless innings in a 7-2 win in Toronto on Wednesday after giving up a season-high five runs in six innings of a 5-4 loss to Houston on June 6, which snapped a string of six straight wins. He also improved to 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two road games against AL East teams."This is a tough division to pitch in, especially on the road. These are some tough ballparks to pitch in," Hughes told the Twins' official website.The Twins (32-36), losers of three in a row, had a tough time hitting in Monday's series opener at Fenway Park.Minnesota tied a season low with three hits in a 1-0 loss, but is still 12-7 against the AL East -- the only division it owns a winning record against.A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning helped Boston (32-38) earn just its fifth win in 14 games and avoid a third consecutive defeat. The Red Sox are batting .216 with five runs scored in their last three games.Jon Lester (7-7, 3.33) didn't need too much support Thursday, giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings of a 5-2 victory over Cleveland, his third win in four starts.The left-hander permitted five runs and a season-high 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings in his prior outing, an 8-6 loss in Detroit on June 7."A win's a win," Lester said. "A little bit of a grind ... Luckily, some of the mistakes I did make were just singles. It was good."Lester, who is making his first start against the Twins since 2012, is 1-4 with a 4.91 ERA in eight career starts in the series -- his worst record against any AL club.Joe Mauer has five hits in his last 11 at-bats against Lester, including a pair of doubles. Kendrys Morales, who had his first hitless performance in seven games with Minnesota on Monday, is 2 for 9 versus Lester in the regular season and playoffs.Dustin Pedroia has eight hits in his last 18 at-bats against Hughes, including three home runs.
Boston Red Sox hitters have a .288 average this season in at-bats to end in a fastball, cutter, splitter or sinker from a righty this season, tied for the fourth-best mark in baseball. Phil Hughes has thrown the highest percentage of those pitches this season among all qualified pitchers (87.8 percent).