Seemingly out of nowhere, manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and trainer Steve Donohue emerged from the dugout. They spoke to Hughes for a moment and then removed him from the game.
Hughes said he thought he could've stayed in and lobbied Girardi and Rothschild to let him. He said the back stiffened up after the third inning, preventing him from finishing off his breaking stuff.
"It wasn't so bad that I couldn't have pitched," Hughes said after the Yankees lost 2-1 and fell into a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven series. "Like I said, the way things were going, obviously the circumstances of this game and how important it was -- Joe and Larry didn't want to take any chances. If I made a couple of mistakes that inning, it would've been a lead that we couldn't overcome."
He was replaced by David Phelps, who got out of the fourth with the Yankees still down a run.
Hughes threw 61 pitches. He allowed a run and three hits in three-plus innings. He walked three and struck out one.
The right-hander dealt with back problems last year, when an MRI found inflammation caused by a herniated disk, an injury from seven years earlier.
Hughes said this is a similar injury, but not as serious. Last year, he could barely get out of his bed. Hughes thinks if the Yankees were to come back and advance to the World Series, he would be able to pitch.
"We definitely don't see this series as over," Hughes said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.