Nuno 'can't be perfect' in 10th

Nate McLouth pounced on Vidal Nuno's third pitch of the 10th in the Yanks' first loss when scoring first. AP Photo/Nick Wass

Vidal Nuno represents what Phil Hughes once did. The thing about a rookie is that the slate is completely clean and fans can let their imaginations loose to dream.

Hughes was supposed to be a No. 1 and is now more a No. 4 or 5. Nuno is an out-of-nowhere story, the first Vidal to make the majors, and he had not given up a run in his initial eight big league innings.

On Tuesday night, the New York Yankees lost 3-2 in 10 innings to the Baltimore Orioles. It happens. Before Tuesday, the Yankees had never lost a game this season after scoring first. They had been 19 for 19, which was the longest such steak since -- strangely enough, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- the 1992 New York Mets, better known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy," went 18 games to begin a season.

In the process of Tuesday's loss, the imagination of what could be for Nuno and Hughes was chipped away a little -- and they really didn't do that much wrong.

Nuno, 25, threw just three pitches in the 10th inning. One of them, a cutter that stayed flat and rode over the plate, was driven over the wall by Nate McLouth for the game-winning, walk-off homer.

"You can't be perfect," Nuno said. "If everyone could be perfect, everyone would be a Hall of Famer."

Three lockers away and just a year older than Nuno, Hughes sounded disappointed with his six innings of two-run ball. Yes, it was better than his two-thirds against the Seattle Mariners on May 15, but his pitch count got too high, too early and ex-Yankee Chris Dickerson drilled him for two solo shots.

Hughes kicked himself because if he wasn't at 102 pitches so quickly, maybe he lasts into the seventh.

"Every time out there, you want to be as perfect as you can," Hughes said. "Obviously, you look at the last start and this was obviously better, but I feel like I can still take some strides forward and do a better job of just commanding the baseball a little bit better and not forcing myself into high pitch counts so early. It seems like it happens a lot if I don't have my plus-command. My goal the next time out is to give us a little bit of a deeper start."

This is what Hughes is as he enters free agency. Is he young enough to make a leap in his career? Sure, he is. But there has yet to be any evidence that he is about to take the next step in his career.

Too many nights end like Tuesday, with Hughes saying he needs to do better because something was not quite right. He explained he felt like he was out of rhythm in the windup. Still, there doesn't seem to be a lot of reasons to believe he will be what the Yankees projected him to be six years ago. He doesn't dominate.

"He gave us a chance to win the game," Joe Girardi said.

That is all you can ask of a No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher. The Yankees' bullpen picked it up from there. Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and the impressive rookie Preston Claiborne held the Orioles scoreless over the next three innings. To start the 10th, Girardi wanted to go lefty on lefty with Nuno versus McLouth.

Three pitches later, one of which that was not so good, Nuno had to face the media after the first earned run of his career. He did it like an old pro.

"It was one pitch and it cost us the game," Nuno said. "You have to forget about it."