ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Monday's loss to the Angels had to rank among the more dispiriting defeats of the Yankees' season but not because of the sudden way it ended on Mark Trumbo's leadoff homer in the ninth.
It was the step backward by Phil Hughes, who had showed signs of putting things together.
The Angels lost their ace, Jered Weaver, 12 pitches into his outing and the offense spotted Hughes a 3-0 first-inning lead, one he immediately gave up.
The 25-year-old righthander exited the first behind 4-3 and on his way to an outing in which he allowed a season-worst seven runs -- all earned -- and 11 hits in 51/3 innings.
"It was mainly the first inning, a lot of pitches right over the middle of the plate," Hughes said. "The offense did a great job, got us some runs in the first and I gave them right back. That was tough."
Hughes (4-5, 5.64) had been pitching reasonably well after an awful April, in which he went 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA.
Coming into Monday's start, Hughes had allowed three earned runs or fewer in four straight starts, lowering his ERA to 4.94 from 7.48.
"You like to keep it rolling for sure and you'd like to string together as many good ones as you can in a row but after the first inning, I knew it was going to be a battle," Hughes said.
"I think it's always important for players to have bounce- back nights," Girardi said. "Pitchers, I think it's really important for them and for us as a team. He's had to bounce back after some bad starts already this year and he put together a decent streak, so maybe he can get on another streak."
Girardi isn't concerned that Monday's setback might portend a season of inconsistency, something that's been a hallmark of sorts for the righthander in his career.
"Every starter's going to have some struggles, that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "If you were to replace a guy every time he struggled, you'd probably have to have about 15 starters."
Girardi would not engage in speculation on how secure Hughes' spot in the rotation would be if the Yankees had the starting pitching depth everyone thought they would early in spring training.
"I don't know, that's speculating on what we would have done," Girardi said. "We need him to throw well for us."
Catcher Russell Martin said too many of Hughes' pitches tailed back over the plate.
"We were trying to make things happen and it's just one of those days where he pitched over the middle of the plate and they were getting whacked," Martin said.
Hughes said his primary issue, especially in the first inning, was throwing too hard, though it wasn't because of the adrenaline rush from pitching about 10 minutes from where he grew up.
"I get that before every start and I just have to find a way to calm myself down and not get fastball happy," Hughes said. "I wanted to overthrow a little bit in that first inning. I felt good with my stuff and made too many mistakes."
The lesson to be taken, he said, was going with more off-speed stuff earlier.
"When you get in those jams, you want to go harder and harder and harder and speed things up but that's never the right way to go," Hughes said. "There's probably a few opportunities where I could have really slowed myself down in that first inning, but instead, I tried to squeeze the leather off the ball and throw a fastball. It's not a good way to go."