When Joe Girardi analyzes starter Phil Hughes, he can't help but harp on the amount of time the righty missed last year with right shoulder inflammation.
Girardi believes that missing nearly three months of last season stunted Hughes' growth as a starter and led to some struggles along the way.
"Any player that takes a year off, sometimes it takes you a little time to get back to where you were," Girardi said Saturday. "I think that's what we're seeing from him right now. He's getting back to the form he was in [in] 2010 when he won (18) games as a starter."
Hughes looked the part of his 2010 self on Saturday, throwing 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball and picking up the win in the Yankees' 4-2 victory over the Mets.
"It's just aggressiveness more than anything," Hughes said. "I'm attacking guys and leaving it all out there and trying not to be too fine."
After an 18-8 year in 2010, fatigue and inflammation led to an injury-plagued 2011, when he went just 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA. This season, he started slow again -- 1-4 with a 7.88 ERA after he lost on May 1 against Baltimore.
Since then, Hughes is 5-1 and has won three straight decisions. He didn't have his best stuff against the Mets, with his manager saying Hughes battled his rear end off, but he found a way to get the job done.
He did yield a pair of solo home runs, the latter by David Wright putting him down 2-1 in the sixth. But Hughes didn't let the Mets pressure him, giving up just six hits. He relied on his fastball, accumulating six strikeouts, as his breaking pitchers were "off" and his changeup was "in and out."
When he departed the game in the seventh with his team leading 3-2, the fans serenaded him with a chorus of "Hughes." He has now held opponents to two earned runs or less in seven of his starts, including five of his last six.
In his last two starts following a debacle in Anaheim, when he gave up a season-high seven runs on 11 hits, he has thrown 15 1/3 innings against the Mets and Tigers and yielded just 10 hits and three runs while recording two wins.
"It's nice to keep it going," Hughes said.
While Hughes has pitched well lately, he is also putting himself in the record books for a dubious distinction. After surrendering those two homers on Saturday, he has now allowed a home run in 12 straight games to start the year, which is tied for the second-most in major league history. If he gives up at least one homer in each of his next two starts, he'll tie the all-time record, held by Bert Blyleven.
"The home runs are an issue," Hughes said. "I'm a fly-ball pitcher so it's going to happen. I'd like to blame it on the ballpark but those were pretty much going out anywhere. Thankfully they were solo homers and I was able to get guys out with guys on base and stay away from a big inning."