Hughes likely to be named fifth starter today. Here's why it doesn't matter

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UPDATE: It’s Hughes.

8:29 A.M. The Yankees fifth start competition has been the most celebrated race for a meaningless job since the last vice presidential search. It’s enough to make me wish for a giant scandal in Yankees camp. I mean, at least it would be fun to talk about, say, a fistfight between Nick Swisher and Mick Kelleher over a card game or a big Marcus Thames steroids beef or something.

But no, we’ve been stuck with Joba and Phil. It’ll likely be resolved today with Joe Girardi naming Phil Hughes his starter and sending Chamberlain to the pen to set up for Mariano Rivera.  Joba fans will complain. The people who think he was born with a bullpen phone stuck to his ear will rejoice. The tabloid writers will spend far too much time talking about how Girardi’s choice reveals important truths about each man’s character and destiny. It’ll be a gas, man. But one tabloid writer makes a pretty wise point. It’s Joel Sherman of the Post, who notes today that the stakes of this fifth starter race aren’t all that high.

Why? Because the Yankees have every Monday in April off and won’t need a fifth starter until the 17th at the earliest, and even later if it rains. Also because Phil Hughes, like Joba before him, will be subject to an innings limit, probably around 170. When you figure that the Yankees are far more likely to make the playoffs than miss them, that means Hughes will need to be pretty severely limited in the early going if they want him to be available for the playoffs (where he’ll likely be a reliever again anyway).

Sherman thinks that the Hughes rules will require that he either start the season in Scranton, where he can be yanked after three or four innings without anyone making a federal case out of it, or split his starts, with him taking the first few innings and having either Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre as scheduled relievers to take, say, the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

The upshot: the conclusion of The Great Fifth Starters Race of 2010 is going to be pretty anticlimactic.  As it should be.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.