Phil Hughes ineffective, offense quiet in Yankees' 9-3 loss to Tigers

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes takes a breather

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes takes a breather in the top of the third. (Aug. 10, 2013) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

The echoes from a frantic, freaky Friday night barely had subsided when the Yankees retook the field Saturday, but the thrills were long gone as they returned to recent form with a sickly 9-3 loss to the Tigers.

Even the boos were muted as Phil Hughes made a mess of another start, the home team's bats went as silent as the crowd and Alex Rodriguez sat idly on the bench, given a day off by manager Joe Girardi.

A-Rod had plenty to say before the game, curiously expressing gratitude for a greeting Friday that he seemed to consider warmer than did most observers. "It was awesome,'' he said. "I mean, it was an amazing experience. The fans are incredible.''

But by remaining on the bench during the dreary 3:13 of game time, he allowed everyone a breather from the circus atmosphere that has followed him for weeks now, and returned the focus to a Yankees season on the brink.

The loss was their fifth in six games and dropped them to one game over .500. The Tigers, who outhit the Yankees 17-6, won for the 17th time in 19 games.

Hughes (4-11) allowed four runs and seven hits in 41/3 inefficient innings. He threw 54 pitches through two innings, finished with 99 despite not walking a batter and fell to 1-8 with a 6.18 ERA at home.

"It's tough to go out there through times like this,'' he said afterward. "It's just been a grind and it's something that is tough to live with every day . . . It bothers me more than anybody. There's only one thing I can do and that's to keep working and try to find a way out of it.''

Hughes and Girardi cited the Tigers' ability to foul off pitches and generate long at-bats, eventually pouncing when they saw the right offerings.

Hughes said he most regretted a hanging slider that Austin Jackson hit over the leftfield wall in a four-run fifth that made it 6-0. He did not blame himself for an earlier homer that Miguel Cabrera hit off a fastball that Hughes said was a foot inside.

After hitting a tying two-run homer against Mariano Rivera in the ninth Friday -- a game the Yankees won, 4-3, in 10 innings -- Cabrera had hits in his first three at-bats Saturday.

A three-run homer by Torii Hunter off Joba Chamberlain in the sixth put the game away.

"They have some guys who can really do some damage,'' Girardi said.

The Tigers' Nos. 1, 2 and 3 hitters -- Jackson, Hunter and Cabrera -- were 8-for-13 with three homers and six RBIs. The Yankees' Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters -- Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Curtis Granderson -- were a combined 1-for-11 with four strikeouts.

"We just can't get anything going,'' said Lyle Overbay, whose two-run homer in the fifth and RBI single in the ninth accounted for all of the Yankees' scoring. "It seems like we're trying to do too much with runners in scoring position.''

Overbay called Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (10-7, 2.58 ERA), who allowed two runs in seven innings, "one of the most underrated pitchers I've ever faced.''

Said Tigers manager Jim Leyland: "Sanchez pitched better than Hughes. That pretty much sums it up.''

Girardi doesn't have many -- if any -- alternatives to Hughes. "We need him to pitch well -- that's the bottom line,'' he said.

But Hughes hardly is all that is wrong with the Yankees. They will try to avoid falling to .500 against 2011 Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander Sunday afternoon. Welcome back to the lineup, A-Rod!

"We keep putting ourselves in position to get the big hit,'' Rodriguez said even before the latest nine innings in which they did not. "I think we will.''

Time is running out.

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