NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes + Yankee Stadium = trouble.
That has certainly been the case for the past three months. Since May 15, Hughes is 0-8 with a 7.46 ERA in nine starts in the Bronx, with his latest defeat coming on Thursday afternoon.
Hughes actually didn't pitch that badly, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings of work. But he was still saddled with another loss in the Los Angeles Angels' 8-4 victory.
Joe Girardi, as usual, put a positive spin on things.
"Definitely," the New York Yankees' manager said, when asked if this was a step in the right direction. "I thought he threw the ball better today. I thought his command was better today. And we need him to keep improving."
Hughes was a little less enthused. "It was obviously better -- it’s hard to pitch much worse than I have been," he said.
It certainly could have been worse. Hughes gave up a run before many fans had even reached their seats, after J.B. Shuck led off the game with a single, stole second base and scored on a Josh Hamilton single.
But he settled down after that -- until the fourth inning, when Erick Aybar led off with a double and scored on a Hank Conger sacrifice fly. The next batter, Chris Nelson, launched a 94-mph fastball into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center field, and the Angels suddenly had a 3-1 lead.
Hughes said he was trying to go down and away with that pitch, but ended up leaving it out over the plate, calling it "the big mistake of the day."
There actually was a bigger mistake later on: a Boone Logan slider to Nelson in the eighth inning resulting in a grand slam, which broke open the game.
Hughes finished on a high note, with two scoreless, hitless innings after the fourth. But he still dropped to 4-12 on the season with a 4.97 ERA.
"I felt like I threw the ball OK," Hughes said. "[But] at the end of the day it’s a loss, so it’s not what we set out to accomplish today, and at this point every game’s very important."
It's hard to believe Hughes won 16 games a year ago, and 18 in 2010. Those seasons, although recent, seem like distant memories.