The last time the Yankees saw Phil Hughes, he was pitching on the night they officially were eliminated from playoff contention.
The Yankees got their first glance at Hughes as a member of the Twins Sunday and if they didn’t have three hits in the fourth inning, they might have been no hit.
Instead it was almost good enough for a victory, until David Robertson fell apart in a 7-2 loss Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Robertson allowed a lead-off homer in the ninth to Josh Willingham and unraveled from there.
“I started bad right out of the gate,” Robertson said. “First pitch, Willingham put it in the seats. That was a tough break. I tried to make a good pitch down and away and hopefully get him to hit a ground ball or something. But he made me pay for it because I left it too far over the plate.”
The Yankees lost for the ninth time in their last 13 home games and were held to three hits for the fourth time this season. They were held under three runs for the 23rd time as they attempted to generate offense without Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.
“Its tough to say,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “We could have won the series with those numbers. It’s just a matter of time before the offense really breaks out.”
Other than loading the bases and scoring two runs on an RBI single by Derek Jeter and bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki in the fourth, it was a mostly forgettable day at the plate for the Yankees.
Hughes did his best to insist that there was not any motivation pitching in New York for the first time since ending his Yankee career with a 4-14 record.
“I don’t think it means any more than any other start,” Hughes said. “This game can be pretty cruel sometimes. I went through that last year. You never take wins for granted no matter what. Obviously I have some history here, but satisfaction postgame isn’t different than any other win.”
After loading the bases on Brian McCann’s walk, the last 18 Yankees went down without reaching base and the distressing loss ended with McCann flying out to right field in the bottom of the ninth.
Robertson had one of his worst days as a closer as he blew his second save in 14 chances. Besides the Willingham home run, he allowed a go-ahead double to Brian Dozier and a two-run double by ex-Yankee Eduardo Nunez and a two-run single by Oswaldo Arcia, whose arm and bat beat the Yankees Friday night.
The Yankees reached the point of being three outs away from a win because of solid pitching from a trio of homegrown pitchers.
Chase Whitley came close to getting his first career win in his home debut, continued with another overpowering performance by Dellin Betances and another solid eighth inning by Adam Warren.
“These are the guys we have and we have to find a way to get it done,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We had the bases loaded up and nobody out and were only able to come away with one run. Those are the situations that we really need to capitalize and we weren’t able to do that today.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.