Phil Hughes pitches during a game against the Cleveland Indians...

Phil Hughes pitches during a game against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium. (June 26, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Phil Hughes was hoping to find a way to bounce back from an awful outing in which he surrendered a career-high four home runs.

After being clobbered six days earlier, some naysayers would have pounced on Hughes if he had had another bad performance. His 19 homers allowed are tied for second most in the American League, but Hughes was no batting-practice pitcher this night, holding Cleveland in check and seemed to barely break a sweat.

He tossed eight shutout innings, helping lead the Yankees to a 6-4 victory before a crowd of 43,006 at the Stadium.

It marked only the second time in 15 starts this season that Hughes (8-6) didn't give up a homer. He surrendered six hits, struck out four and walked one before giving way to Cory Wade to start the ninth. Of Hughes' 111 pitches, 74 went for strikes.

"Larry [Rothschild] and I always talk about bounce-back outings, and you try to put together as many good ones as you can,'' Hughes said. "But if you battled last time, try to put up a real good one after that and that's big. I'll try to use this one as a steppingstone.''

The Yankees, whose 116 home runs lead the majors, didn't use the long-ball approach last night. Sure, they got a solo homer from Alex Rodriguez, his 13th, in the seventh, but they already had a four-run lead after a three-run second inning. Curtis Granderson singled in a pair of runs, backup catcher Chris Stewart drove in two and Mark Teixeira hit a fifth-inning sacrifice fly.

Joe Girardi was pleased to see the Yankees' manufacturing approach.

"Great,'' the manager said. "We only hit one homer tonight, right? So it was really good. It was important.

"We had some big hits by some guys, and [Justin] Masterson's sinker is crazy. The thing is moving all over the place. Guys were shaking their heads. He's a tough guy to hit, so for us to manufacture some runs is impressive.''

Particularly given the Indians' ninth-inning explosion with two outs. Johnny Damon's RBI bloop single and Jose Lopez's three-run homer to leftfield off a struggling Wade forced Girardi to summon Rafael Soriano. The closer notched his 16th save by getting Lonnie Chisenhall to ground to first on his second pitch.

The Yankees have won four in a row, easing memories of last week's three-game losing streak, and are starting to put a little distance between themselves and the second-place Orioles in the AL East. Their lead swelled to four games.

Just as they did Monday night, the Yankees pounced on the Indians early and took control, scoring three second-inning runs with two outs. Nick Swisher scored on Stewart's soft liner down the third-base line that a diving Jack Hannahan couldn't handle with a backhand attempt, and Granderson singled in Dewayne Wise and Stewart for a 3-0 advantage.

In the fifth, the Yankees touched Masterson (4-7) again on Teixeira's sacrifice fly that made it 4-0. Rodriguez turned around a Tony Sipp pitch in the seventh, depositing a no-doubter into the second deck in leftfield. The Yankees added a run in the eighth on Stewart's sacrifice fly for a 6-0 bulge, putting them in position for a sweep in today's series finale.

"It's weird because there are still a lot of things that can be clicking better as a whole," Granderson said. "But the good thing is it's not like it's one guy carrying us or we are waiting for one guy to get the ball on the mound to go ahead and get us back to where we need to be.

"So the fact that it's a little bit of everybody coming through when we need to is a good thing. You can't go ahead and stop one guy and hope that you are going to beat us that way. Hopefully, finally, we'll get a chance to get everybody clicking on all cylinders soon."

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