ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Yet another starting pitcher on the last-place New York Yankees got hurt Tuesday night. This one was working on a no-hitter in his second major league start.
Phil Hughes carried his gem into the seventh inning before a hamstring injury cost him a chance to make history. The team’s prized prospect is expected to miss four to six weeks, a sour end to an otherwise encouraging night for New York.
Hank Blalock broke up the no-hit bid with a leadoff double in the eighth against reliever Mike Myers, but the Yankees responded to criticism from owner George Steinbrenner in a big way Tuesday with a 10-1 rout of the Texas Rangers.
New York (10-14) won for only the second time in 10 games, but Hughes’ injury put a damper on the blowout.
“Just one of those freak things that you certainly can’t explain,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Hughes (1-1) became the latest New York pitcher to go down, two starts after he was called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill a spot in the team’s depleted rotation. Mike Mussina (hamstring), Carl Pavano (forearm) and Jeff Karstens (broken right leg) are on the disabled list. Chien-Ming Wang also missed the first three weeks of the season with a hamstring injury.
“It’s been frustrating,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “We seem to be getting hit every day.”
Hughes, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, was cruising along in a dominant performance when he winced and grabbed the back of his left thigh after throwing an 0-2 breaking ball to Mark Teixeira with one out in the seventh. He was removed after 83 pitches with a 9-0 lead.
The 20-year-old right-hander said he was trying to finish Teixeira with a hard curveball when he likely overextended over his front foot. Hughes said he felt a pop.
“I was kind of flustered,” he said. “It was one of those unfortunate circumstances, and there’s not much you can do about it.”
Hughes said he wasn’t in pain after the game, but he wouldn’t have been able to keep pitching. After being pulled, he walked gingerly back to the dugout, where he received a warm reception from teammates.
Hughes struck out six and walked three. When he left, he was eight outs from the Yankees’ first no-hitter since David Cone’s perfect game in 1999.
“It was going to happen,” Torre said. “That was the sense in the dugout.”
“You want to give credit to the opposing pitcher, but at the same time you have to be unhappy where the offense is,” said Rangers shortstop Michael Young, who was 0-for-4. “Getting two hits is not good enough.”
New York went 9-14 in April and finished the month 6 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East. That roused Steinbrenner to issue his first public remarks of the season Monday, at once throwing his support behind Torre and rebuking the team for its record.
Steinbrenner’s vote of confidence in Torre and Cashman silenced, at least temporarily, speculation that their jobs were in jeopardy. But the notoriously demanding owner also termed the start by his $195 million club “clearly not acceptable.”
Against the Rangers, Steinbrenner’s comments seemed to cajole the Yankees to their most lopsided win of the season. The timing of the rout was similar to a 19-8 win over Tampa Bay in 2005, which followed an even more scathing lashing of his team following a 4-8 start that year.
Robinson Cano broke out of a 1-for-18 slump by going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two doubles. Jorge Posada had three hits, three runs and two RBIs. Alex Rodriguez added three hits to raise his batting average to .371.
The Yankees also took advantage of three Texas errors.
Posada’s two-run double highlighted a four-run third against Kameron Loe (1-2) that made it 6-0. New York added three in the fifth on RBI doubles by Hideki Matsui and Posada, and a run-scoring single by Cano.
Before Tuesday’s game, Torre said he hoped to hear no more questions about his future. He also blamed part of Yankees’ recent trouble scoring runs on players “trying too hard.”
Against the Rangers, it seemed as though the Yankees hardly had to try. New York’s lineup battered Loe for four-plus innings, getting 10 hits and nine runs — seven earned.
Before Tuesday’s win, New York became the first major league team to use five or more pitchers in 10 straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Longtime Yankees broadcaster Bobby Murcer returned to the YES Network booth for the first time since having surgery on a malignant brain tumor in December. “Everything is going along really well for me,” said Murcer, who plans to work 50 games this season. … Yankees CF Johnny Damon sat out but expects to be in the lineup Wednesday. He has been bothered by a bad back and visited a chiropractor in Florida on Monday. … Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 18 games and finished 1-for-4 with two walks. Dating to last season, he’s hit safely in 57 of 59 games.