Phil Hughes pitched well enough to win with most lineups. Just not the one the Yankees fielded Thursday.
Hughes tossed eight strong innings on a day when he might have needed that kind of commanding outing to stay in the rotation. But the Yankees were overmatched against Rangers lefthander Derek Holland, mustering two singles and two walks in a 2-0 loss at the Stadium.
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"He didn't make too many mistakes and I think we were a little too aggressive with his pitches," Lyle Overbay said of Holland, who needed only 92 pitches to wrap up the shutout, pitched to two batters more than the minimum and allowed one runner to reach second. "We just didn't get too deep into counts. It's frustrating."
More so with Hughes (3-7) throwing the ball as well as he has in the last two months. Ian Kinsler's third-inning sacrifice fly opened the scoring and rookie Jurickson Profar's home run in the fifth closed it. Hughes gave up five hits, walked one and struck out five, showing improved fastball and slider command.
"I just felt like the last week or so really helped me out," Hughes said. "Gathered my thoughts for a few days, worked on some things on the side, better mechanics. I was just trying to keep a better plane to home plate, staying over the rubber a little bit better.
"Whenever you're trying to get through some rough stretches, it helps to take a deep breath. It felt like it did me some good."
But the Yankees' offense is doing very little right. Joe Girardi gave Brett Gardner the day off, weakening an already anemic lineup that featured batting averages such as Austin Romine's .150, David Adams' .179 and Alberto Gonzalez's .205.
Ichiro Suzuki led off the first with a single to left and Romine singled with two outs in the third, but that was it.
Holland retired 17 of the last 18 batters. The only Yankee to reach base in that span was Robinson Cano, who drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, tried too hard to make something happen and was thrown out by catcher Geovany Soto when he tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt.
Holland, who entered the game 0-5 with an 8.85 ERA against the Yankees in the regular season, struck out seven, including three whiffs of Vernon Wells, who got the start in right and batted cleanup. Wells is 11-for-his-last-97.
"Today was just a bad day," said Wells, whose average dropped to .223. "When you get an opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it."
Hughes is no stranger to lack of run support. He's gotten two or fewer runs in seven of his last eight starts, and it's no coincidence that he's 1-5 in that stretch. Thursday was perhaps an even better outing given that Michael Pineda is nearing a return. There's also the possibility that the solid outing positioned Hughes as a better trade chip for the Yankees, who clearly need help at the plate and could offer Hughes and his expiring contract around.
As for the rumors of being dealt or sent to the bullpen, Hughes said he's learned to block them out.
"I guess I've just been hearing it for so long, it's easy to kind of -- you know what to expect, you know there's going to be questions you have to answer," he said. "For me, every time I take the ball, I clear my head and do the best job I possibly can. I don't let talk or anything like that creep into my head. I guess it takes experience and going through it to handle that stuff better, so it's really not an issue."