Hughes suffers hard-luck loss

NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes has lost four straight starts at Yankee Stadium for the first time in his career.

He didn't deserve this one, though.

Hughes pitched one of his best games of the season, holding the Rangers to just two runs on five hits in eight innings of work Thursday. But the Yankees mustered only two hits against Texas starter Derek Holland, and lost the rubber game of the series 2-0.

"He pitched way too good to get a loss," said first baseman Lyle Overbay.

Hughes gave up one run in the third inning, on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler. He gave up the other in the fifth, throwing a second consecutive changeup to Jurickson Profar, which Profar deposited into the right-field seats.

That was a mistake, but Hughes made very few over the course of 107 pitches, striking out five batters, and walking just one.

"He was really good today," Joe Girardi said.

The manager particularly liked Hughes' fastball command and his slider.

"I thought he got some swings-and-misses on [the slider], and located that better," Girardi said. "So the combination of those two things I thought was the important part."

Hughes hadn't pitched in more than a week, thanks to a doubleheader last Wednesday (Hughes started the second game), plus an off day on Monday.

"I just felt like the last week or so really helped me out," Hughes said. "Just kind of gather my thoughts for a few days, and work on some things on the side."

He tinkered with his mechanics during the extra time off.

"I was just trying to keep on a better plane to home plate, all my momentum going in the right direction, and just standing over the rubber a little bit better," Hughes said.

Although he dropped to 3-7 on the season, this performance ensures Hughes will keep his spot in the rotation -- for the time being, anyway.

Prior to the game, Girardi refuted the notion that Hughes was pitching for his job. But Ivan Nova looked good in a spot start on Sunday, and Michael Pineda has looked good in four rehab starts in the minor leagues.

Hughes, on the other hand, has been maddeningly inconsistent all season, has looked particularly shaky at home, and has by far the worst numbers in the rotation, with a 5.09 ERA entering the game.

He admitted being aware of all the discussion about his job status, but said it doesn't affect him.

"I guess I’ve just been hearing it for so long, that it’s easy to kind of, you know what to expect," Hughes said. "For me, every time I take the ball, I just clear my head and go out there and do the best job I possibly can."

No one could have blamed Girardi for giving Hughes the hook after another poor outing. But Hughes took the decision out of the manager's hands, at least for now.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, he'll get the ball again next Tuesday in Minnesota.

"We know that he’s capable of doing it, we’ve seen it before," Girardi said. "Hughesy wants to pitch, he wants the ball every fifth day, and he went out and got it done today."