Phil Hughes hit hard early as Yankees split doubleheader with Dodgers
Twelve pitches into Wednesday night's game Phil Hughes appeared headed for a reprise of the worst start of his career.
It took the Dodgers that many pitches to send four batters to the plate against the enigmatic righthander, collect four hits and score their first run.
All of it was reminiscent of Hughes' two-thirds-of-an-inning outing May 15 at the Stadium against the Mariners when he was booed off the mound after allowing seven runs in a loss.
Wednesday night Hughes didn't suffer that fate, and should be credited for avoiding the outright shelling he seemed destined for. He did control the damage in the first when he allowed two runs, but it was still a struggle throughout a 6-0 loss at the Stadium that allowed the Dodgers to split the day-night doubleheader.
"We need all players to be consistent. That's what you strive for as a player is to be consistent and right now he's struggling with that," Joe Girardi said.
Hughes (3-6, 5.09) allowed five runs and a season-worst 10 hits over six innings as the Yankees fell to 39-32.
"That's the biggest thing, is just be consistent and give us a chance to win every time out," Hughes said. "Giving up two runs in the first isn't exactly the way you want to start things out. I have to be better."
With Ivan Nova pitching better in Triple-A and Michael Pineda perhaps being ready for the big leagues within a month, Hughes' spot in the rotation could be in jeopardy.
"I haven't really thought about moving Phil out of the rotation," Girardi said. "I think he's capable of doing a good job for us but right now he's struggling."
In the first game, Hiroki Kuroda pitched 6 2/3 strong innings, allowing two runs and eight hits, and Ichiro Suzuki went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs, to help the Yankees to a 6-4 victory.
But Hughes' performance, along with the lack of hitting, to a degree overshadowed what happened earlier in the day, a day in which Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig made an excellent impression in his Yankee Stadium debut.
The 22-year-old went 2-for-5 in the first game -- Mariano Rivera struck him out for the final out of the ninth to record his 25th save -- and went 2-for-4 in the second game, including his fifth homer of the season.
On both singles to center in the first game, Puig sprinted out of the box and never stopped, once getting thrown out at second and once sliding in for a double. "I told Joe [West], the first base umpire, 'I think he missed first because he can't be there that fast,' " first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "We're both looking at him hitting first base, and whoa, it's an aggressive move early in the game. It's fun to watch."
The Yankees mostly watched lefthander Chris Capuano, who came into the nightcap 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA, shut them down as he allowed three hits in six innings for the Dodgers (30-40).
Adam Warren replaced Hughes in the seventh and Puig jumped on the righthander's first pitch, an 83-mph breaking ball, and lined it into the seats in right to make it 6-0.
In the first game, the Yankees improved to 33-1 this season when holding a lead after seven innings, but it wasn't easy.
After a three-run seventh gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead, rookie Preston Claiborne took over. The righthander came in with a 0.86 ERA in 16 appearances but struggled. Puig led off with a double and went to third on Gonzalez's long flyout to right, a play in which Ichiro made a leaping catch against the wall. Ramirez's two-run homer made it 6-4.
Robertson entered and walked Ethier and Juan Uribe, then fell behind Skip Schumaker 2-and-0 -- the reliever's first 11 pitches, 10 were balls -- before inducing a popout. Then he got A.J. Ellis to ground out.
Rivera pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the last two batters he faced.