With Yanks' stars out, Hughes shines brightest

With Yanks' stars out, Hughes shines brightest

With Yanks' stars out, Hughes shines brightest
NEW YORK -- Hours after the Yankees honored some of the greatest players in the franchise's history, Robinson Cano celebrated the here and now of his fourth All-Star selection with a tiebreaking two-run home run in Sunday's 4-2 win over the White Sox.

The home run was enough for starter Phil Hughes, who battled 95-degree heat for much of the afternoon but was sharp after a two-run first inning, striking out eight and walking one across eight innings.

"I thought he made some mistakes with the location of his fastball and then he corrected it, and that was the big difference," manager Joe Girardi said. "He threw an outstanding game in the heat. He stayed consistent. To be able to give us eight innings on a day like today is extremely difficult."

Between the temperature, pregame events and a battle between first-place teams, Sunday was an eventful day in the Bronx. Before the game, the Yankees hosted some of the best to wear pinstripes during the 66th Old-Timers' Day in franchise history and celebrated four of their players -- Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia -- earning spots on the American League roster for the July 10 All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

While Cano spoiled a ripe scoring opportunity with the bases loaded and no outs in the first by grounding out to White Sox starter Gavin Floyd for a double play, he made up for it in familiar fashion. The second baseman graciously repaid the fans who rewarded him with a trip to the Midsummer Classic with a line-drive shot into the right-field seats in the third inning for his 20th home run of the season. Cano now has seven home runs in his last 11 games, and it appears he has started July exactly the way he left June, during which he hit 11 homers.

"There's no explaining it; I've just been taking advantage of pitches down the middle," Cano said. "Today, it went out in a good situation. I feel the same way I felt in the beginning of the season. I feel good."

Hughes got off to a tough start, a problem that has plagued him for much of the season. Alejandro De Aza doubled to open the game and Kevin Youkilis followed with a single. Alex Rios' single to right drove in another run, but Hughes held the White Sox at two runs in the first and rarely ran into trouble thereafter.

Eric Chavez helped erase the damage and jumpstarted the Yankees' offense in the second inning, when he hit a towering home run to right field with Raul Ibanez on second. That tied the score at 2 and set the stage for Cano's shot in the third.

"The first inning, sometimes I get a little too amped up," Hughes said. "It has been a problem this year, especially at home. I have to calm my emotions a little bit and just pitch from the get-go instead of overthrow. Once I got going a bit, I could settle down."

On the season, Hughes has settled down considerably, lowering his ERA from 7.48 on May 6 to 4.29. After rebounding from a short outing in Atlanta with his eight-inning effort against Cleveland on Tuesday, Hughes pitched deep into the game again on Sunday. The right-hander threw 74 of his 106 pitches for strikes, earning his sixth win in a span of eight starts.

Since the Yankees lost Sabathia and Andy Pettitte to injury earlier this week, the other three rotation mainstays have delivered quality outings. Hughes' performance on Sunday followed strong starts by Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda, who combined to throw 14 1/3 innings and give up just one run against Chicago. For the majority of Sunday's game, Hughes followed suit, retiring 16 of the final 17 hitters he faced.

"This is a challenge, and we do need to step up and pitch well while we don't have those guys," Hughes said. "It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be tough, but we can only do what we can do."

Unlike Hughes, Floyd lasted only 5 1/3 innings and threw 122 pitches. The right-hander was coming off one of his strongest outings of the season, having thrown seven scoreless innings against the Twins on Tuesday, but the Yankees were patient and knocked him around.

"Against that lineup, you can't ease your way into it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "They don't allow you to do that. They were grinding on him, [taking] a lot of pitches. It's something that you're used to seeing with them."

The Yankees have hit 124 home runs this season, the most in the Major Leagues. They entered Sunday's game with 21 homers in their last 10 games and continued the trend against Chicago. With their win on Sunday, the Bronx Bombers split their four-game series with the White Sox and ended their homestand with a 5-2 record.

"When you lose the first two, you have to give credit to the other team," Cano said. "They did the little things. We came back and won these two, and that's good. If you don't win [the series], you want to split."

Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.