During A.J. Burnett's maddeningly inconsistent years as a Yankee from 2009-11, his starts began earning two-word synopses:
Good A.J./Bad A.J.
Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Hughes in a nutshell.
After two straight Good Phil appearances, Bad Phil reappeared Saturday night at the Stadium in an 11-1 loss to the Red Sox in front of 48,784 fans. It was the sixth loss in the last seven games for the Yankees (31-24), who slipped two games behind the Red Sox (34-23) in the AL East.
"We need him to pitch well, it's the bottom line,'' Joe Girardi said. "We need him to be more consistent.''
Hughes entered the night 2-3 with a 4.97 ERA but had pitched well in his previous two starts, no-decisions in which he allowed three runs and nine hits in 13 innings. Those outings came after back-to-back starts in which Hughes, a free agent after the season, allowed six and seven runs, respectively.
That version of Hughes (2-4, 5.37) showed up Saturday night as he lasted only 41/3 innings, allowing five runs -- all in a 36-pitch third inning -- and seven hits.
But neither Girardi, Hughes nor catcher Chris Stewart thought this outing belonged in the "lousy'' category. Said Hughes, "Tonight, really, is one pitch I'd like to have back.''
That pitch, a 2-and-2, 94-mph fastball to Mike Napoli that resulted in a grand slam, came in the third -- an inning in which Hughes struck out the side.
Napoli's slam followed a decision by Girardi that left him open to second-guessing. With a run home, runners on second and third and none out, Hughes struck out Dustin Pedroia, bringing David Ortiz to the plate. Girardi chose to intentionally walk Ortiz -- 0-for-1 with a strikeout to that point but 9-for-21 with two homers in his career against Hughes -- to load the bases.
After falling behind 0-and-2, Napoli drove a 2-and-2 pitch into the Yankees' bullpen for his fifth career grand slam and a 5-0 lead.
Girardi said the numbers made the decision an easy call. Napoli had struck out 78 times in 2013 to 16 for Ortiz. Few pitchers want to put extra baserunners aboard, especially early in games, but Hughes had no quibble. "He has a history of handling me pretty well, and with the base empty, there's really not much to argue there,'' Hughes said.
Daniel Nava's three-run homer off Adam Warren in the eighth made it 8-1, and Stephen Drew homered off Warren to begin a three-run ninth. Nava (four RBIs) had four hits and Napoli added three for the Sox, who outhit the Yankees 18-6.
Stewart accounted for the Yankees' only run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth but was replaced by Austin Romine to begin the fifth because of dehydration. "I felt it when I went out there stretching before the game,'' said Stewart, who hopes to be in the lineup Sunday night. "I just felt kind of drained, tired feeling. I tried to will myself through it but it got to a point where it was too much. I didn't want to pass out.''
Hughes earned the headlines, but a subpar performance by the Yankees' lineup, one that included Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira for a second straight night, couldn't be ignored.
Red Sox lefthander Felix Doubront showed up 3-2 with a 5.29 ERA but got little resistance over six innings, allowing one run and six hits. Youkilis and Teixeira combined to go 1-for-7 with six strikeouts a night after going 1-for-7 with four strikeouts. David Adams, who entered the game in a 0-for-13 slump, led the way with two hits.
The offense has scuffled for the better part of a week, but Brett Gardner said he's not worried. "We're what, one, two games out on June 1?'' he said. "I don't think anyone in here's concerned.''