Phil Hughes called Wednesday the worst start of his career.
He felt terrible that a position player, Alberto Gonzalez, had to pitch and outfielder/DH Vernon Wells was called on to play second base in the ninth. After lasting just two outs and giving up seven runs in the Yankees' 12-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Hughes didn't have an answer for why he can't ever find consistency.
"I think if I knew that answer I would try to avoid those bad starts," said Hughes, who is 2-3 with a 5.88 ERA after eight starts. "It is just a matter of going out there and attacking the zone, doing what I do, but days like today, you are missing and trying to figure things out in a middle of an inning. It is just not happening for you. Whether that is getting my changeup going or my off-speed stuff just to try and combat that. Maybe that is the solution."
Hughes threw 36 pitches and most of them were up. The worst one was a belt-high breaking ball that Raul Ibanez smacked as if it were last October, when he played for the Yankees. The grand slam was the biggest hit in Hughes' terrible night.
"It is going to be tough to sleep the next couple of nights, for sure," Hughes said.
Hughes is having his usual seesaw season. He had a four-start run where his ERA was 1.93. Then in Kansas City, he gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings but got the win. On Wednesday, it was a disaster as bad Hughes showed up.
"I always feel we are going to get the good Phil," Joe Girardi said. "I'm an optimistic guy and guys are going to have bad starts. Tonight is probably as tough as you are going to have as a starting pitcher."
Girardi said for Hughes to move to the next level in his development, he needs to be able to pitch both up and down in the zone. Predominately, Hughes is up, which is why he allows so many fly balls and, in turn, homers.
"It is just consistency of pitches," Girardi said.
Girardi eventually went into his spiel about how the game played on the field is not like a video game.
"This is a hard game," Girardi said. "I think sometimes people seem like you have to have a Nintendo controller in your hand and you can control the baseball. It is not that simple."
With Hughes, though, there was a time that more was expected than just a No. 4 starter. He was supposed to be a No. 1 or, at least, a No. 2. But maybe a No. 4 or 5 is all he is -- and will ever be.
"If you start long enough, you are going to have one of these nights and a lot of them call them nightmares," Girardi said.
Hughes is just 26 and a free agent after 2012. You wonder if he will ever be more than just OK. On Wednesday, he was far worse.