Burnett dominated the struggling Yankees and outclassed their prized prospect on the mound, sending last-place New York to its sixth straight loss by pitching the Toronto Blue Jays to a 6-0 victory Thursday night.
“He’s got the capability of doing that every time he goes out there. All we have to do is keep him healthy,” Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells said.
Making his much-anticipated major league debut, Hughes received a rough welcome from the hard-hitting Blue Jays and a valuable lesson in power pitching from Burnett.
“I don’t think you can really ever know what it’s going to be like,” Hughes said. “I made a few good pitches, but when you’re falling behind so much like I was it’s hard to put guys away. I really wanted to stay away from the walks, so when I fell behind I probably made too good of pitches and guys like Wells aren’t going to miss those.”
Missing injured Derek Jeter, the Yankees (8-12) are on their longest skid since also dropping six in a row from May 28 to June 3, 2005. They managed only four singles and are percentage points behind Tampa Bay in the AL East.
Next up, a three-game series at home against the rival Red Sox, who swept New York last weekend in Boston. The first-place Red Sox already have a 5 1/2 -game cushion over the Yankees, but Johnny Damon said there’s no reason to panic— yet.
“There’s going to be panic soon if the winning doesn’t start. We have to stay close,” he said. “If we can’t start getting victories, I’m sure there’s not going to be too many happy people.”
Wells went 3-for-3 with two walks for Toronto, giving him seven hits in his last eight at-bats and 11 in his past 14. Frank Thomas drove in two runs, and leadoff batter Alex Rios scored three times and knocked in a run.
The Blue Jays have won three straight, all against the Red Sox and Yankees, after losing a season-worst five in a row.
“We played some really good baseball the last three games against the teams we have to beat,” manager John Gibbons said.
Still waiting for Mike Mussina to get healthy, the Yankees called up Hughes (0-1) from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and handed him the ball Thursday even after a rainout Wednesday night gave them an opportunity to change course.
Considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, the 20-year-old right-hander from California became only the second pitcher drafted in the first round by the Yankees to reach the big leagues with New York. The other was Bill Burbach, who was selected in the first amateur draft in 1965.
Hughes, drafted 23rd overall out of high school in 2004, gave up a hard single to Rios on his second pitch. After Adam Lind struck out, Wells hit a loud RBI double over Damon’s head in center field. He scored on Thomas’ opposite-field single.
Wearing No. 65, Hughes settled down from there until running into more trouble in the fifth.
John McDonald reached on an infield single, though replays appeared to show he was out at first. He stole second and scored on Rios’ single.
A single by Wells chased Hughes, and Thomas’ sacrifice fly made it 4-0. With his family watching from the stands, Hughes allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings. He struck out five and walked one.
“I certainly wasn’t disappointed,” said New York manager Joe Torre, who wouldn’t commit to another big league start for Hughes. “I don’t think he was out of his league by any stretch of the imagination. … His command wasn’t as good as it’s going to be.”
Meanwhile, Burnett (2-1) was cruising to his first career win at Yankee Stadium. Flashing a fastball in the mid-to-high 90 mph range, he struck out five and walked four in seven impressive innings.
“We came out swinging so I started pounding the zone as best I could,” Burnett said. “I threw a lot of two-seamers and changeups. I pretty much had control of everything.”
Three consecutive walks and a wild pitch by New York’s shaky bullpen led to two Blue Jays runs in the seventh. Lyle Overbay had a sacrifice fly.
Because of a daunting forecast, New York RHP Mike Mussina (hamstring) won’t make a rehab start for Double-A Trenton at Harrisburg on Friday. Instead, he will throw 50-60 pitches in a simulated game at Yankee Stadium. … Burnett has allowed only 10 hits in his last three starts. … Jeter was a late scratch from the lineup because of a sore left thigh. Miguel Cairo played SS. … Three starting pitchers have made their major league debuts for the Yankees in the first 20 games of the season. Kei Igawa and Chase Wright are the others. The last time a team had three starters debut so early was 1955, when the St. Louis Cardinals had three pitchers debut in the first 13 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … The Yankees are four games under .500 for the first time since May 10, 2005.