The Yankees provided Hughes with plenty of support as they earned a split of the four-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Robinson Cano's eighth career grand slam highlighted a six-run third inning, with Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez also homering for New York.
"We talked about it yesterday; you can only tip your cap so many times," Rodriguez said. "At the end of the day, we have to do the job. Yesterday wasn't so good. Today was much better."
Hughes owned a 7-1 lead by the third inning, cruising through his best outing of the year. He went a season-high 6 2/3 innings, coming within two of his career max with 115 pitches as he held Kansas City to three runs and six hits.
"I thought he located his fastball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he had a good changeup today that was effective, and he used his other pitches as well. He used some cutters, and he used some curveballs. We needed a win to finish the road trip."
And Hughes may have needed one for other reasons. As the right-hander worked against Kansas City, walking one and striking out seven, Andy Pettitte was declaring himself ready to join the big league club after his most recent Minor League rehab start.
It has been suggested that Hughes could bounce to the bullpen to clear space for Pettitte, especially in the wake of Mariano Rivera's season-ending right knee injury, but Sunday's deep effort suggests that Hughes may stay.
"When you kind of have that long leash, it makes you feel like you can be that workhorse-type guy and go out there and have the trust of the manager and give us some length when we need it," Hughes said.
Girardi said that he will, as of now, keep his rotation on turn. The manager expects to discuss Pettitte's situation with general manager Brian Cashman, but there is justification for keeping Hughes in the rotation.
"I think the reason his name has been brought up so much is because of what he's done in the past [in the bullpen], and with the injury to Mo," Girardi said. "But this is also a guy who won  games in the rotation, so he's done some good things in both places."
Billy Butler knocked a run-scoring double in the first inning before Hughes settled in. Alex Gordon's fifth-inning RBI single and Humberto Quintero's solo homer in the seventh accounted for the other runs before three New York relievers finished up.
"It wasn't a mistake-free outing, but with the run support, it was positive," Hughes said.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar certainly would have traded places, having been chased in the third inning and hearing boos from the home crowd as he exited.
New York posted a run in the second inning on Raul Ibanez's RBI single before the floodgates opened in the third, as the first five batters of the inning reached base and scored against Hochevar.
"The Yankees are a club that you can survive very few mistakes," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Curtis Granderson laced a run-scoring single for his 1,000th career hit and Hochevar drilled A-Rod to load the bases for Cano, who connected on a deep drive to right-center for his second homer of the year, instantly doubling his RBI total on the season.
"The thing that went through my mind, I finally came and got a hit with men on base," Cano said. "I know I've been struggling with men on base. In a situation like that, you want to go home and put the series even, especially with Hughes the way he's pitching. You want to help him out and score some runs."
Swisher clubbed his seventh homer of the year to chase Hochevar, marking the slugger's return to the lineup after he missed a week with a left hamstring injury.
"I just wanted to be the spark to light the flame," Swisher said. "It worked for us today."
Rodriguez tacked on to the lead in the eighth inning with the 634th homer of his career, a no-doubt three-run blast that cleared the waterfalls in left-center.
"We know what these guys are capable of doing, and eventually it's going to come," Girardi said. "It's nice that it started today."