NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes may have been one bad start away from pitching himself off the Yankees' rotation going into Thursday's game.
Unfortunately for Hughes, he pitched well enough for the Yankees to want to keep him in their rotation. Now all they need to do is find someone to score for him.
Hughes picked a fine time to pitch his best game of the season -- eight innings, just five hits and two runs allowed, only one walk and five strikeouts -- because that was hardly good enough when his own team could manage just two singles off Derek Holland, who had come into Yankee Stadium winless (0-5) in seven lifetime starts against the Yankees in the regular season.
How bad was the Yankees' offense? They got just one runner as far as second base, and that was in the fourth inning when Jayson Nix walked and stole second. And that is where he stayed as the next two hitters, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells, struck out and Zoilo Almonte grounded out.
But look at the bright side: At least it was short. When you don't hit, it's easy to play two-and-a-half-hour games. This one? A mercifully brief 2:24.
What it means: That the Yankees lose five of nine games on this homestand and are now in third place in the AL East, pending the outcome of tonight's Orioles-Indians game.
Far gone: Rangers rookie Jurickson Profar crushed a 1-1 changeup from Hughes deep into the right-field seats leading off the fifth inning to give Texas a 2-0 lead. It was the third homer of the season for Profar, who turned 20 in February.
Wandering boy: A bizarre play in the third inning -- David Murphy took off from first on a 3-2 pitch, Austin Romine threw down, the pitch turned out to be ball four to Profar. Everyone safe, right? Wrong. Murphy then wandered off second base and was tagged out by Nix, who was still holding the baseball. Ron Washington argued briefly but gave up; nobody, including the umpires, seemed to know exactly what had just happened.
Can't put 'em away: The strange play involving Murphy may have saved the Yankees and Hughes a run in the third because after Murphy was called out, Hughes left a 1-2 slider over the middle of the plate for Engel Beltre, making his first major league start, to drive into right for a single, moving Profar to third, from where he scored on Ian Kinsler's sacrifice fly. Hughes' inability to put hitters away has been a longtime bugaboo.
Down the well: Given his first start in a week, and slotted into the cleanup position, Vernon Wells struck out in each of his first three at-bats and was booed louder each time. Before the game, Joe Girardi confirmed Wells had lost his job as the everyday left fielder to Zoilo Almonte. Soon, he may be relegated to full-time pinch-hitting duty.
What's next: Choo-choo to Charm City, where the Yankees open a three-game series over the weekend with the Orioles. The pitching matchups: David Phelps (5-4, 4.01) vs. TBA tomorrow night; CC Sabathia (8-5, 4.09) vs. LHP Zach Britton (1-2, 5.51) Saturday night; and Hiroki Kuroda (7-5, 2.77) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (9-2, 3.72) in Sunday night's finale. Andrew Marchand will have you covered this weekend; I'll rejoin the fun on Monday in Minneapolis.