Monday's matinee against the Red Sox, however, was the opposite, with Hughes being just bad enough in his showdown with Boston's own All-Star, Jon Lester, to be saddled with his fifth loss of the season.
Hughes' final line on Monday -- six innings, six hits and two earned runs -- is solid, especially given the quality of Boston's offense. But considering where the right-hander seemed headed at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET, it's practically miraculous.
At that point, he was in the midst of a 37-pitch second inning. The Red Sox collected five hits and a run the first time through their order, and they seemed primed for more with J.D. Drew at the plate and the bases loaded with one out.
Less than a half hour after his first pitch, Hughes was on the precipice of throwing his last.
He induced Drew to ground out to second, though -- scoring a second run -- and Victor Martinez to ground out to short. In the process, he kept himself and the Yankees in the game.
From that point on, he was every bit as dominant as he was way back in April and May, setting down 12 of 13 Red Sox batters over his final four innings.
"I knew I had to change something, make an adjustment," Hughes said of his mindset following the second. "I tried to play catch out there. It's as simple as that. I tried to back off as much as I could and make good pitches. I knew I didn't have that much left in the tank. It was pretty hot out there, so I knew if I just tried to throw harder and make up for it, it wasn't going to be good."
Hughes was able to give the Yankees six innings -- something he had been unable to do in three of his previous four starts -- despite the high pitch count early, the high temperatures and a lingering head cold. He threw 57 pitches through the first two innings and 57 pitches in his final four frames.
"He kept us in the game. He pitched a lot better from the second inning on," said catcher Jorge Posada. "He really threw pitches where he wanted to, the curveball was a lot better, throwing strikes."
On the subject of his cold, Hughes just said, "Day games don't help."
This start came with a game-time temperature of 92; his previous start, on Wednesday afternoon, began with temperatures in the high 80s.
Although Hughes' effort ultimately wasn't enough, the loss had more to do with the work of Lester and the Boston bullpen than with Hughes' second-inning labors.
"I wish we could have scored some runs for him," said Mark Teixeira, who provided the Bombers' offense with an eighth-inning shot to right. "Phil deserved better."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.