Phil Hughes was the first to admit during his stellar first half that he was bailed out at times by the inordinate run support he seemed to receive every start, regardless of whether he had his best stuff.
Last night, he didn't have anything close to that and the Yankees, after scoring twice in the first inning, went quietly in a 10-2 loss to the Angels at the Stadium.
Hughes, in his first start since taking the loss in the All-Star Game, allowed six runs and nine hits (one below his season high) in five innings. It was not what the Yankees or Hughes were looking for after hearing the team will be without Andy Pettitte for four to five weeks.
"Lack of command," Hughes said, boiling down his problems. "We got a lead early and to give that right up and pretty much take us out of the game was disappointing."
Joe Girardi lifted Hughes (11-3), whose ERA has climbed to 3.99 from 2.54 on June 2, after Mike Napoli's 17th home run with none out in the sixth. The two-run shot gave the Angels a 6-2 lead. They hit three two-run homers in the game, including one by Hideki Matsui.
The Angels recalled Sean O'Sullivan from the minors Monday because scheduled starter Scott Kazmir went on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. O'Sullivan shut down the Yankees, primarily with a tough changeup, after giving up two runs and two hits in the first.
Nick Swisher's 17th homer highlighted the first for the Yankees. But after intentionally walking Robinson Cano with one out, O'Sullivan set down the next 12 Yankees. He gave up only two hits in six innings.
Hughes was coming off a good start in Seattle before the break - one run in seven innings. He thought this effort was "a step back" from where he needs to go.
"You have to find a way to try and get back to that," Hughes said of his first-half groove. "I know it's there. I have to put some good outings together. The pressure is there because Andy's down and we have to battle through this. Tonight wasn't a step in the right direction."
Girardi exited in the bottom of the sixth, ejected by first-base umpire Paul Emmel after Mark Teixeira was called out on a close play.
Girardi added a bit of spice afterward, saying the ejection was unwarranted. He said it might have been related to his last ejection, by this same crew, June 6 in Toronto. Then it was plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, who also was behind the plate last night, who tossed him for arguing a checked-swing third strike on Swisher.
"I didn't say anything to be thrown out," Girardi said. "I was shocked when I was thrown out. Then I got a little hot . . . I've been tossed nine times as a Yankee. I'll be the first one to tell you, eight of them I deserved. Tonight I don't think I deserved it."
Emmel told a pool reporter the ejection was earned.
"He came out and said the call was wrong and I said it wasn't," Emmel said. "And then he made a comment that violated the rules and he shouldn't have made it, and so he got ejected."