NEW YORK -- One week ago, Phil Hughes' record stood at 1-4, and his ERA was an ungodly 7.48. And with unretired starter Andy Pettitte getting ready to re-join the Yankees, there was talk that the right-hander might be demoted to the bullpen.
After building on a good start in a win against Kansas City on May 6, Hughes solidified his place in the rotation with an impressive performance Saturday, pitching into the eighth inning against the Mariners as the Yankees beat visiting Seattle 6-2 in front of 43,954.
Hughes (3-4) went 7 2/3 innings and surrendered just one run on six hits and a walk while striking out four in his longest, and best, outing of the season.
"We want him to be aggressive, and today he was," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's what we're looking for from Phil."
"I need to trust my fastball, and today I did," said Hughes, who faced a lineup featuring eight left-handed hitters. "I feel better with a four-seam fastball coming to left-handers than an 87 mile an hour off-speed pitch."
Raul Ibanez, who hit a three-run homer to propel the Bronx Bombers to a win Friday night, continued his heavy hitting. The left fielder connected for his seventh homer of the season and also had an RBI double.
"His RBIs have been so big for us," Girardi said. "He's been clutch all year."
Informed that he's got the best offensive numbers of any No. 7 hitter in baseball this season, Ibanez said, "I don't think much about where I'm hitting, especially with this great lineup. The guys behind you and in front of you, they get on base, so there are opportunities. I just try to have good at-bats every time up."
Recently called-up utility infielder Jayson Nix contributed with a two-run home run, his first hit and RBI of the year. Robinson Cano drove in a run with a single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. And Derek Jeter added two hits, a stolen base and a run.
Jeter's second hit, a single up the middle in the eighth inning, was the 3,141st of his career, tying him with Tony Gwynn for 17th on the all-time list.
For the Mariners, Mike Carp drove in both runs with a solo homer and a double.
Seattle starter Hector Noesi (2-4), who spent seven years in the Yankee organization (2011 was his rookie year) and was part of the Michael Pineda trade that brought the Mariners Jesus Montero, was done in primarily by one bad inning in his first outing against his old club.
With one out in the second, Mark Teixeira doubled along the right-field line. After Nick Swisher flied out, Ibanez looped a ball to left for a run-scoring double, and Russell Martin followed with another two-bagger, this one to dead center field, to bring in Ibanez. Nix put the finishing touches on the rally with a two-run homer to right.
"To see all those runs, with two outs, that's huge. Those are the things that really kill teams," Girardi said.
"He was pitching good all day long," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Noesi, who allowed six hits and didn't walk a batter over seven innings. "He just made some mistakes with two strikes in that one inning, and they made him pay. But the way he pitched against that lineup and deep in the ballgame, I was just impressed with him. This kid is going to be a heck of a pitcher."
Seattle only twice got base runners as far as second against Hughes. In the top of the fourth, Ichiro Suzuki reached on a one-out singled up the middle and Montero followed with a walk. But Hughes retired Kyle Seager on a foul pop and struck out Carp looking to escape unscathed.
In the eighth, after two-out singles by Dustin Ackley and John Jaso off Hughes, Boone Logan came on to strike out Suzuki on three pitches to end the threat.
Logan finished the game for his first save as a Yankee.
NOTES: Before the game, the Yankees honored Hall of Famer Yogi Berra on his 87th birthday. Berra came on the field on a golf cart driven by former pitcher Ron Guidry, who for many seasons has "chauffeured" Berra around Tampa during spring training. Their relationship is the subject of the new book, Driving Mr. Yogi. ... Nix, whose home run snapped a 0-for-20 streak dating back to last season, started at shortstop for New York as Derek Jeter was designated hitter. Earlier, manager Joe Girardi pointed out that Jeter had not missed a game all year. "I have to pick my spots to him at least some rest, and the same for Alex [Rodriguez]," Girardi said. "I worry a little about fatigue, because they might pull something. That's my concern." Girardi said with left fielder Brett Gardner on the disabled list, he has been forced to use the regular DH tandem of Ibanez and Andruw Jones in the field, "freeing" up that lineup spot for Jeter and Rodriguez. ... Meanwhile, M's shortstop Brendan Ryan, who's off to a horrendous start offensively, batting just .149 (13-for-87), sat out in favor of rookie shortstop Munenori Kawasaki. "He (Ryan) has to be able to defend himself at home plate, to get up and compete," manager Eric Wedge said. "You can't just be an out. He's swimming in his own brain up there. He knows all this. He needed a day off. I need a day off."