ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Yankees' rotation desperate for some good news didn't get it Wednesday night . Phil Hughes, taking the mound after the pregame bombshell that Michael Pineda was lost for the season, responded with a debacle of an outing in a 7-3 loss to the Rangers.
Hughes (1-3, 7.88 ERA) lasted only 22/3 innings, allowing four runs and five hits. He hit two batters and allowed a long home run in falling into a quick 4-0 hole.
Speaking of his season, he said, "It's been frustrating, it's been disappointing. Something's got to change. It's tough to deal with, and you just hope that things get better before they get worse. I'll do everything in my power to try and do that."
Before the game, Joe Girardi called the start "big" for Hughes, though not because it was of the make-or-break nature for the 25-year-old righthander.
"We have expectations of him, too, after him winning the  games [in 2010],'' Girardi said, "and we feel he has the opportunity to be successful again this year.''
Andy Pettitte took another step toward his return Wednesday night in Trenton, but he's still a little ways away from joining the rotation. When that does happen, it's not inconceivable that Hughes will end up in the bullpen, but Freddy Garcia is still the favorite to be the odd man out.
That, however, very well could change if Hughes has more starts like this one.
"Our plans are to send him back out there again,'' Girardi said after the game. "It's about making pitches, and that's been a struggle for him at times. The ability's there, but he's got to find a way to do it."
Hughes had an easy enough first inning, retiring the Rangers in order on 11 pitches. But he left a 91-mph fastball over the middle of the plate that Adrian Beltre crushed to dead center, estimated at 441 feet, to lead off the second. Beltre went 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
The Rangers knocked out Hughes in a three-run third, with Mitch Moreland starting it with a one-out single. Ian Kinsler lofted an opposite-field double down the rightfield line, and Elvis Andrus' slow chopper to third brought in Moreland to make it 2-0.
After Hughes hit Josh Hamilton in the right knee with a pitch, Beltre singled to right-center to make it 3-0. Michael Young's double drove in Hamilton, and after a pitch brushed Nelson Cruz's jersey, Hughes was done.
The Yankees cut their deficit in half in the fourth, getting an RBI double by Raul Ibañez and a sacrifice fly from Eric Chavez. But the Rangers pushed the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the inning as Mike Napoli hit rookie David Phelps' first pitch over the wall in right for his seventh homer.
Moreland's solo homer to lead off the sixth pushed the lead to 6-2, and Beltre's single later in the inning made it 7-2.
Notes & quotes: Derek Jeter went 2-for-4, raising his average to .420 and extending his hitting streak to 15 games . . . The two-time defending AL champions improved to 15-4. Rookie Robbie Ross (4-0) threw 22/3 perfect innings in relief.