NEW YORK (AP) - Having seen the New York Yankees make the first change to their rotation, Phil Hughes knows he could be the next to lose his starting job.
Hughes improved from his awful April only marginally Tuesday night. Given an early lead, he allowed home runs to Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy that boosted the Baltimore Orioles over New York 7-1, giving Brian Matusz his first victory in 11 months and Buck Showalter his 1,000th win as a big league manager.
``Overall, tonight was the best stuff I had all year,' Hughes said. ``I take that for what it is.'
On an odd night that saw Alex Rodriguez bunt for a base hit and pop up with the bases loaded, the Yankees lost to Baltimore for the first time in five games this season. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod combined to go 7 for 12, with the rest of the batting order going 0 for 21.
Hughes (1-4) allowed four runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings, leaving him with a 7.48 ERA. He struck out six, using a 95 mph fastball, but once again got in trouble with the long ball. Hughes has allowed seven home runs, including at least one in each of his five starts.
``I thought he was better,' manager Joe Girardi said. ``I thought he had better command of his fastball. I thought his breaking ball was sharper. And his velocity was higher, as well. Just missed his location on Hardy bad. And that's going to happen from time to time.'
With a 5.83 ERA for their starting rotation, higher than every major league team except Minnesota, the Yankees already have dispatched Freddy Garcia to the bullpen and replaced him with rookie David Phelps. Andy Pettitte, coming out of retirement at age 39, could be ready after one more minor league start - meaning Hughes probably is next to be bumped.
``I try not to think,' Hughes said. ``There's always pressure to perform. It's always in the back of your mind, but the first thing I have to worry about is me.'
Hughes wasn't the only Yankees player to stumble. Eduardo Nunez, an infielder subbing in left field because of injuries to Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, misplayed Nick Johnson's routine fly with two outs in the sixth into a two-run error that made it 6-1. Nunez misread the ball, lunged and missed it as it dropped.
``Have to learn how to play left field,' Nunez said. ``You practice. I think I'm going to be better.'
Johnson got in on the Orioles' fun, adding an RBI double in the eighth against Rafael Soriano that stopped a 0-for-29 skid at the start of the season.
New York, meanwhile, went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. Down by five runs, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh and A-Rod fouled out to the catcher against Darren O'Day on his first pitch.
``It was a beautiful pitch to hit,' Rodriguez said. ``A hanging slider. I should have done a lot better.'
Fifth on the career home run list, Rodriguez bunted toward third to reach leading off the sixth.
``I saw an opportunity to get on base and I took it,' Rodriguez said.
Curtis Granderson put the Yankees ahead in the first with his ninth homer, a drive off the ribbon board in front of the upper deck in right. Davis, who had three hits, tied it in the second with his fifth homer and Hardy's two-run drive gave Baltimore a 3-1 lead in the third.
Matusz (1-3) allowed six hits and one walk in 6 1-3 innings to win for the first time since beating Oakland last June 6. He had been 0-12 with a 10.47 ERA in 14 starts since, the longest active losing streak in the majors and one short of the Orioles record set by Mike Boddicker from 1987-88.
It was especially rewarding for Matusz that it helped Showalter reach a milestone.
``It couldn't be more exciting,' Matusz said. ``Growing up I was a huge Diamondback fan, so Showalter was the manager there and I watched a lot of his games. It's an honor to be a part of that game and come away with a win.'
Showalter's first win came on April 7, 1992, across the street at old Yankee Stadium when New York's Scott Sanderson beat Boston ace Roger Clemens 4-3. Showalter remembered the last out as if it happened a second earlier.
``I'm very appreciative of the players making me feel really young tonight even though I'm an old goat,' Showalter said.
NOTES: New York dropped to 8-1 when scoring first. ... The Orioles are 16-43 against the Yankees since 2009. ... Granderson made a nice sliding catch on Endy Chavez's drive to center in the eighth. ... New York's D.J. Mitchell pitched a two-hit ninth in his major league debut.
The Associated Press News Service
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