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Phil Hughes ineffective as Yankees fall to Tigers

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes sits in the

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes sits in the dugout after being pulled in the fifth inning of a game against the Tigers. (Aug. 7, 2012) Credit: AP

DETROIT -- It took veteran Eric Chavez to sound the alarm.

"There should be a high level of concern," the third baseman said after the Yankees lost yet again, this time 6-5 to the Tigers at Comerica Park Tuesday night as a ninth-inning rally fell short. "Anyone who says there isn't is lying. It should be a concern. We need to start playing good and winning games."

The Yankees (63-46) have done little of either, now with just six wins in their last 18 games and seeing the 10-game lead in the AL East they enjoyed July 18 cut to 41/2 over the Orioles, who beat the Mariners in 14 innings Tuesday night.

Joe Girardi preferred to take a bigger-picture, and not necessarily incorrect, approach.

"It's been a struggle for us, there's no doubt about it but the first month we struggled and we came out of it," Girardi said. "We'll come out of it. We will. Every club goes through it."

Chavez, who hit a two-run homer in the fourth, pointed to Alex Rodriguez going to the disabled list July 25 as the origin of the Yankees' struggles, but they hadn't been playing great before that.

Regardless, things aren't going well and Curtis Granderson batting leadoff hasn't solved it. The centerfielder is 1-for-17 since leading off, including Tuesday night's 0-for-4 performance that ended with him popping out against Jose Valverde with runners on second and third and two outs in the ninth.

"Whether I'm batting first, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, if you're not hitting, you're not hitting," Granderson said. "It doesn't matter where you happen to be batting. Just not putting the ball in play the way I want to."

The Yankees didn't do a lot of that against Rick Porcello (9-6), who allowed three runs and eight hits -- three by Nick Swisher -- in 62/3 innings, departing after Ichiro Suzuki's double that cut the Yankees' deficit to 5-3.

The Tigers made it 6-3 in the eighth on Andy Dirks' single off Joba Chamberlain, a run that proved critical because the Yankees scored two runs in the ninth off Valverde. Ichiro had a two-out, run-scoring single and Russell Martin drove in a run with a double to make it 6-5 before Granderson's pop-out.

"We're one hit away," Girardi said.

The Tigers (60-50) have been getting plenty of those as they improved to an MLB-best 24-11 since June 28.

They fared far better against Phil Hughes than the last time they faced him here July 3, when he outpitched Justin Verlander with a four-hitter.

Hughes (11-9) was 10-4 with a 3.24 ERA in his previous 16 starts, but allowed four runs and eight hits. He wasn't awful but his pitch count was driven up by a 42-pitch fourth inning in which the Tigers tied it at 2.

"I probably didn't have my best stuff," Hughes said. "My curveball was inconsistent. I don't think it's anything where I need to go to the drawing board or anything like that. Just one of those nights, I think."

Miguel Cabrera homered in the fourth and drove in two more in the fifth with a double, improving to 51-for-138 (.370) with 15 homers and 37 RBIs in his career against the Yankees.

"It's like pick your poison," Martin said of attacking Cabrera.

Of the team's slump, the catcher sounded much like Chavez.

"We're not playing very good," he said. "We're going to have to pick it up."

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