Hughes a little better, but not enough

Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees

Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees speaks with Jorge Posada #20 during Game Six of the ALCS against the Texas Rangers in the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Credit: Getty)

ARLINGTON, Texas - Phil Hughes said before his ALCS Game 6 start that he didn't want to end his season with a poor Game 2 performance.

He didn't. He ended with it with a less-than-stellar Game 6 performance.

Hughes was better, but he couldn't get out of the biggest jam of the night and took the loss in Texas' series-clinching 6-1 win over the Yankees at Rangers Ballpark Friday night.

Hughes battled Colby Lewis for four innings, allowing a first-inning run on Vladimir Guerrero's groundout. It was 1-1 in the fifth when Hughes gave up the biggest hit of the game, a two-out, two-run double to Guerrero.

After intentionally walking MVP candidate Josh Hamilton in the third inning, Hughes retired Guerrero on a pop-up to second base. With a man on third and two outs in the fifth, Joe Girardi decided to intentionally walk Hamilton again. This time Guerrero lashed a two-run double to left-center to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

Girardi called on David Robertson to replace Hughes, and Nelson Cruz greeted him with a two-run home run to center.

Hughes' final line: 42/3 innings, four runs, four hits, four walks, three strikeouts. He also had an embarrassing wild pitch on the first intentional ball he threw to Hamilton in the third. Hughes wound up with an ALCS earned run average of 11.42.

Hughes' postseason started out so well. He threw seven shutout innings in the Yankees' ALDS-clinching Game 3 win.

In the ALCS, he was Girardi's choice to start Game 2 against the Rangers, with Andy Pettitte pitching Game 3. Hughes had pitched superbly in his only career starts in Texas - no runs and three hits in 141/3 innings - but that trend did not continue.

In Game 2, Hughes was strafed for seven runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings. He was more effective in Game 6 but still wound up 0-2.

Hughes, 24, went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in the regular season, his first full one as a starting pitcher. He should be an important part of the Yankees' rotation in 2011 and beyond, as he will not have to pitch under an innings limit anymore. He totaled 1761/3 innings in the regular season and 152/3 in the playoffs.

"I certainly haven't noticed any wear or fatigue or anything like that," he said before Game 6. "Coming into the season, I wasn't sure how my body was going to react to throwing that many innings. To be perfectly honest with you, I feel great, and when you come out and you have the adrenaline of a big playoff game like these are, any little aches and pains or whatever you have go away. That's the nice thing about this point in the season; you are out there and every time you take the mound, you feel a hundred percent. It's just about calming those nerves and executing pitches."

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