NEW YORK — If Phil Hughes was pitching to save his spot in the New York Yankees’ rotation, then his latest outing probably helped him. If he was trying to salvage the team’s shaky homestand, then he fell short.
Derek Holland outdueled Hughes, tossing a two-hitter and leading the Texas Rangers to a 2-0 win Thursday.
With Ivan Nova looking for a starting role and Michael Pineda rehabbing in the minors, Hughes’ job could well be in jeopardy. Manager Joe Girardi didn’t go that far in assessing the future before the game, and liked what he saw.
“I thought he was really good,” Girardi said.
“We know he’s capable of doing it. We’ve seen it before,” he said. “Hughsie wants to pitch. He wants the ball every fifth day, and he went out and got it done today.”
Hughes (3-7) allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings, striking out five and walking one. He’d gotten seven days’ rest since the Los Angeles Dodgers tagged him, and was pushed back to accommodate other pitchers.
Hughes fell to 1-5 with a 5.19 ERA in his last eight starts — only once have the Yankees scored more than two runs in those games.
Not that Hughes, a former All-Star who turned 27 this week, was complaining.
“Trust me. I’ve had plenty of runs scored in the past,” he said. “Sometimes you’re going to go through stretches when it’s not there. And we, as pitchers, have to do a better job keeping us in the game.”
Jurickson Profar homered and scored twice, while fellow rookie Engel Beltre got two hits in his first big league start.
The 20-year-old Profar connected in the fifth inning and made it 2-0.
“The home run I gave up, maybe guys feel like they’re pressing when it’s two runs instead of one. You never know,” Hughes said.
The Yankees went 4-5 on their homestand against the Dodgers, Tampa Bay and Texas.
“Struggling right now. We talked about that a little bit,” Girardi said.
Texas went home leading the AL West after going 5-1 on its swing to St. Louis and Yankee Stadium.
Holland (6-4) threw his sixth career shutout — it was the lowest-hit shutout by a visiting Rangers pitcher against the Yankees since the Texas franchise moved from Washington for the 1972 season.
Holland did more than give the bullpen a break. He also spared the Rangers a possible inconvenient return to the Bronx — a huge rainstorm was due later in the afternoon, and Texas isn’t scheduled to play in New York again this season.
The 26-year-old lefty struck out struck seven, walked two and didn’t permit a hit after the third inning.
He was in complete command in a 92-pitch performance, throwing a sharp slider for strikes, and won for the first time in five starts.
Holland began the game at 0-5 with an 8.85 ERA against the Yankees in regular-season play. He had shown a glimmer of success, however, going 1-0 and throwing 5 2-3 shutout innings against them in the 2010 AL championship series.
“I haven’t had great success against these guys,” he said. “They’ve destroyed me.”
No matter that previous Yankees lineups included more high-profile players, he said.
“I don’t care who it is on that other team,” he said. “It’s the Yankees. The Yankees are the Yankees for a reason.”
A leadoff single by Ichiro Suzuki in the first and a two-out single by Austin Romine in the third were the only hits off Holland.
The Yankees hit a few flyballs that were caught on the warning track, and left fielder David Murphy contributed a sliding grab. Backup catcher Geovany Soto helped, too, throwing out Robinson Cano at second base after Cano drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and tried to advance on a ball in the dirt.
NOTES: Yankees OF Brett Gardner got the day off from the starting lineup and pinch hit. ... RHP David Phelps (5-4. 4.01) starts for Yankees on Friday night at Baltimore. ... Holland was the first visiting lefty to blank the Yankees on two or few hits since Seattle’s Matt Young in 1983. ... The last Texas pitcher to throw a shutout and give up two or fewer hits was Doug Davis in 2002 vs. Oakland.
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