Hughes has solid two-game history at Rangers Ballpark

New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes answers

New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes answers questions at his news conference before Game 1 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers Friday, Oct. 15, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. Hughes will start Game 2 Saturday. (Credit: AP)

ARLINGTON, Texas - It's not too often that a pitcher calls his first big-league win "not one of my best memories."

It's also not too often that a pitcher walks off the mound after 61/3 no-hit innings because of a hamstring pull.

Both things happened to Phil Hughes on May 1, 2007, at Rangers Ballpark. It was Hughes' second big-league start, and he hurt himself while throwing an 0-and-2 curveball to Mark Teixeira.

The topic came up Friday because Hughes is making his second postseason start Saturday in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series for the Yankees against the Texas Rangers.

"I remember coming into that game, coming off my debut, I still wanted to prove something," Hughes said. "I remember coming into that game and feeling really good. Everything was working. I came out early and was able to throw strikes. And then, you know, it seems like a distant memory now. But obviously, it didn't end too well. That was certainly disappointing."

In a limited sample size, Hughes has had tremendous success in Arlington. In his only other appearance here, he pitched eight shutout innings in an 11-1 victory May 25, 2009.

So what gives?

"It's not a ton of experience here, just two starts," Hughes said. "But I remember in those two starts, I feel pretty comfortable here. I'm not sure what it is, the ballpark, or what it is, but the two times that I have started here, I have felt pretty good."

Hughes also felt pretty good in his first postseason start. He threw seven shutout innings in the Yankees' series-clinching win over the Twins in ALDS Game 3 a week ago Saturday.

Hughes, who is known for being laid-back, had pitched in the postseason in relief in 2007 and 2009. He said the atmosphere before his start in the ALDS felt different, but the game didn't.

"Going out for warm-ups and being that it was the first playoff game at home, with the intros and all that, it was built up," he said. "But once the game started, I really didn't feel a difference as opposed to a regular-season game. I just tried to control my emotions and make one pitch at a time."

Manager Joe Girardi flipped Hughes and Andy Pettitte in this series, with Hughes getting Games 2 and 6 and Pettitte 3 and 7 if things stay the same and the series goes the distance.

Girardi said Hughes' history at Rangers Ballpark was "one of the factors we talked about. There's a lot of factors that come into making a rotation. And we can sit and talk about all of them, but we don't have enough time in the day to do that. Having success here, a pitcher usually feels good at the parks that they have success."

Hughes will be opposed by 31-year-old righthander Colby Lewis, who was 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA in the regular season and pitched five shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons in Japan, hasn't faced the Yankees since 2003.

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