MOOSIC, Pa. -- The matchup between Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon was much hyped in the days leading up to Game 4 of the Governors' Cup semifinals.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre youngster and the burly Pawtucket veteran were expected to put on quite a show at PNC Field and Sunday evening's effort by both starters certainly proved worthy of the lofty expectations.
Both were superb, throwing zeroes up on the scoreboard and dominating in every facet though neither figured in the decision. Both were spectators by the time Shelley Duncan donned the hero's cape, smacking a two-run homer off Edgar Martinez in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Yankees a 2-0 victory in a true nail-biter before 2,407 fans.
The win clinched the opening-round series for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which will host Durham on Tuesday night in the opener of the Governors' Cup finals. Although there probably won't be any playoff baseball for the Yanks' parent club, the Triple-A club joins Double-A Trenton -- which clinched a berth in the Eastern League Finals last week -- as New York affiliates with a chance to end the season with a title.
"My heart was racing so much there at the end," said Duncan, who had been 1-for-16 in the series prior to the homer. "You can let it get out of control or slow yourself down. If you can do that, you'll be more locked in than you ever could be. I slowed things down. I did what I needed to do and just got the barrel on the ball. The rest took care of itself.
"To end the way it did and to go on to the next round like this is special. It was a lot of fun to be out there."
Bernie Castro led off the bottom of the 10th by legging out a double off Hunter Jones on a line drive into the left center-field gap. Castro took third when Pawtucket shortstop Josh Wilson's relay was wild and wound up in the visiting dugout. Jones fanned Juan Miranda before Martinez came on to face Duncan, who blasted a 1-0 offering over the left-field wall.
"I wasn't surprised that he didn't walk me," Duncan said. "Numbers-wise it was the smart move not to walk me."
As for Hughes, he says it was one of the best games he's ever pitched. He tossed eight shutout innings, allowing only four hits in a nifty 94-pitch effort. He tied a regular-season career high with 11 strikeouts, didn't walk a batter and retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. Hughes fanned Keith Ginter and Jon Van Every three times apiece.
"I like to think that I was as locked in as I could be," said Hughes, who began the season in New York before landing on the disabled list in late April with a rib cage injury. "Right from the get-go, I felt like I had my best stuff. Bartolo was throwing the ball well also. I didn't think about that, though. When I got back to the dugout, I was just thinking about the next inning and trying to put up as many zeroes as I could and hope we were fortunate enough to score first.
"I actually felt better at the end. I was in more of a groove and I was pounding the zone."
The PawSox had back-to-back two-out singles in the third, but Hughes pitched out of the jam. And when Wilson picked up the second of his three hits in the sixth, he was quickly retired as Hughes induced a 4-6-3 double play out of Joe Thurston.
"That's the best I've ever seen him pitch," Duncan said. "It was special to play behind him. Bartolo was just as good and made it tough on us. It had to be a treat for everyone to see. It was probably as good a pitching performance as you'll ever see.
"The pressure he had to face and answer Bartolo every inning is what made this special. Knowing you can't give up a run and that you have to put up a zero every time takes a lot out of you."
Hughes gave way to veteran Scott Strickland, who earned the victory with two scoreless innings. He allowed a leadoff single to Wilson in the ninth and hit Jason Lane to put runners on first and second, but pitched out of the jam and retired the side in order in the 10th.
Colon was lifted with two outs in the eighth having thrown 84 pitches, 18 more than he's thrown in any one start since coming off the disabled list (lower back strain) a month ago. He retired his final 16 batters and faced only 24 batters in his 7 2/3 innings. He struck out two, didn't walk a batter and induced 14 ground-ball outs, including a double play after Justin Christian led off the bottom of the first with a single.
The only other hit Colon allowed was a third-inning single to Nick Green. Only one batter of the last nine he faced got the ball out of the infield.
"The only problem with this game was that Mr. Hughes was every bit as good as Colon," Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson said. "We saw Bartolo yesterday and he had that different look in his eye. And then when he came in here today he told [pitching coach] Rich Sauveur that he was going eight innings. If he wasn't on an 85-pitch limit, he would have finished that game."
The same can be said for Hughes, who admitted he would have lobbied to pitch the ninth had the Yanks scored in the bottom of the eight. He was also quick to point out that it was likely an argument he would have lost.
Still, his effort was enough to remind people why the New York brass is so high on him. While this game might earn him a callup he said he prefers not to think about it.
"I would like to finish this out first," Hughes said. "We have a good team here with a great shot to win the whole thing."
This and that: The PawSox added Colon and right-hander Eric Hull to their roster prior to the game. Johnson said Colon would pitch for the Red Sox next week. ... Right-hander Devern Hansack, who threw six no-hit innings in Game 2, was recalled by Boston while right-hander Marcus McBeth was designated for assignment. ... Hughes' strikeout total bettered his previous Triple-A best which had been 10 at Syracuse on April 18, 2007. His previous 11-strikeout effort was June 18, 2006 at Binghamton while pitching for Trenton. He fanned 13 against Portland in a playoff game for Trenton in 2006.