Hughes thrilled with outing, but not satisfied

Twins righty limits Cubs to one run over eight, says he can pitch even better

Hughes thrilled with outing, but not satisfied

MINNEAPOLIS -- Phil Hughes looked much more like the ace he was for the Twins in 2014, than the one who has struggled to replicate that success this season.

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Hughes turned in his best start of the year, giving up just one run on two hits over eight strong innings to help lead the Twins to a 7-2 win over the Cubs on Friday night at Target Field. It was his third straight quality start, but his first win since May 27. It lowered his ERA to 4.47, which is still nearly a run higher than his 3.52 ERA last season.

"It's definitely the best of the year so far," Hughes said. "So far this year, it's been a bit disappointing for me. But coming off back-to-back wins over St. Louis, carrying the momentum over to tonight was big for us."

Hughes was able to pitch with a lead, as the Twins scored early and often, scoring two runs in the first before adding a run in the third and two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings. Trevor Plouffe paced the offense with two doubles and four RBIs, but was impressed with what he saw from Hughes.

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"That's more of the Hughes we're looking for," Plouffe said. "We know that's the type of guy he is. We just haven't score many runs for him, but tonight we took some pressure off him with those runs. We look for him to be our guy and I think we're going to rely a lot on him in the second half."

Twins manager Paul Molitor was also encouraged by Hughes' outing, as he saw the veteran righty mix in about eight changeups, which is a new addition to his repertoire. He was able to command his fastball and cutter, as he didn't issue a walk and struck out four.

"He stepped it up a little bit," Molitor said. "I'm sure he felt a lot better tonight about how he was throwing the ball, results aside. He had a little more life. He was confident he could get some jam shots and strikeouts with his fastball."

Hughes, though, said his stuff still isn't quite there, as he believes he can be even better going forward.

"It's not what I can be and not my best," he said. "But it was good enough to get me through a pretty good lineup. So I was happy with the way I executed the pitches and the stuff will come around."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.