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Phil Hughes pitches a gem as Yankees beat Red Sox, 2-0

Derek Jeter hits an RBI single during the

Derek Jeter hits an RBI single during the seventh inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox. (Sept. 13, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

BOSTON -- As the Yankees finished batting practice a few minutes before 6 p.m. Thursday, the scoreboard on Fenway Park's Green Monster showed the long-awaited verdict from Baltimore.

Orioles 3, Rays 2 in 14 innings.

That temporarily dropped the Yankees a half-game behind Baltimore entering Thursday night's game against the Red Sox. A victory, and the Yankees would head home still tied for first with the Orioles in the AL East. A loss, and they'd slip out of first for the first time since June 10.

Phil Hughes made sure that didn't happen. In perhaps his most impressive outing of the season, Hughes shut out the Red Sox in his 7 1/3 innings in the Yankees' 2-0 victory in front of 38,134 at Fenway Park.

The Yankees (81-62), with a slightly hobbled Derek Jeter in the lineup at DH, finished this three-city, 10-game trip -- which began with two losses to the Rays -- at 5-5. They start a nine-game homestand Friday night against the Rays, who are coming off a three-game sweep by the Orioles and are four games out.

The Yankees won consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 13-15, when they took three straight against Texas. "You want to continue to play well,'' Jeter said. "Now we're on a winning streak'' -- he smiled when he said that -- "so we're good again, right?''

Offensively, there wasn't much to speak of for the Yankees. They went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base; they finished the series 2-for-34 with RISP and stranded 30.

Jeter had both of those hits, and his looping RBI single to center in the seventh Thursday night was his 3,283rd career hit, tying him with Willie Mays for 10th on the career list. Mays needed 2,992 games to get there, Jeter 2,567. "It's pretty special,'' Jeter said. "It's kind of hard to think about it now because we're trying to win games, especially this time of year. But I'd be lying to you if I didn't think it was special."

Girardi said of Jeter, who has a bone bruise in his left ankle: "He was playing on probably one ankle tonight, probably one and a quarter. And that's who he is. He's a fighter and he finds a way . . . There's no doubt he leads by example. He's done it his whole career."

Andruw Jones lined a sacrifice fly to rightfield in the fourth against Felix Doubront (10-9), who allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings, and Jeter's single in the seventh off Junichi Tazawa made it 2-0.

Hughes (15-12), who came in having allowed 33 homers, the second-most in baseball behind the 35 surrendered by the Angels' Ervin Santana, struck out seven and walked one. Said Hughes, "That's not their 'A' lineup, that's not the lineup that they saw themselves having this time of year, but it doesn't make them any less dangerous. This is a tough park to play in and wacky things happen here. You can't take anything for granted."

Said Girardi, "We needed distance and he did that for us. He was pounding the zone and locating his fastball, which allowed him to get some quick outs."

Yankees-killer Pedro Ciriaco started the eighth with a double off the Green Monster. After pinch hitter Mauro Gomez flied out on Hughes' 95th pitch, lefthander Boone Logan got Jacoby Ellsbury, 6-for-13 to that point in the series, to fly to right. Ryan Lavarnway pinch hit for Scott Podsednik, and David Robertson induced another fly to right.

Rafael Soriano allowed only a two-out single in the ninth and earned his 38th save.

Alex Rodriguez collected his second single in the fourth, then stole his 12th base. Doubront walked Robinson Cano and Russell Martin to load the bases with none out for Jones. He lined a sacrifice fly to right, with Cano advancing to third, but Curtis Granderson -- who homered twice Wednesday -- lined a shot to James Loney, who stepped on first to double off Martin.

Girardi started Eduardo Nuñez at short -- his first start there since April 28 -- saying he "liked the matchup" against Doubront. Nuñez honored that decision with a double in the fifth and a single in the seventh.

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