NEW YORK (AP) — After a sharp spring training, Phil Hughes seemed all set for another All-Star season.
And then the games started counting.
Hughes struggled once again Saturday as Albert Pujols and his teammates teed off, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees.
“It’s tough. I came to camp, I felt good with my stuff,” Hughes said. “We broke camp and things just haven’t gone the way I would have liked. But I just have to keep working hard and get things right.”
C.J. Wilson, meanwhile, wiggled out of constant jams and beat the Yankees for the first time in his career. Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta and Vernon Wells homered as the Angels ended their three-game skid and stopped New York’s winning streak at four.
Kendrick’s three-run shot with one out in the fourth inning made it 6-0. That finished Hughes (0-2), who drew a smattering of boos when he walked off the mound.
An All-Star in 2010, Hughes regressed last year as he had problems maintaining his velocity. He looked to be in fine form during exhibition play, but then went just 4 2-3 innings last weekend in his first start against Tampa Bay.
“With the spring that he had, you expected him to go out and pitch well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s why we always talk about be careful how you evaluate spring training, because guys get off to hot or cold starts for different reasons.”
With Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte expected to rejoin the Yankees at some point, Hughes’ spot in the rotation isn’t assured.
“There’s no guarantees that somebody else is coming in,” Girardi said. “The only thing a pitcher can do is worry about his next start and try to learn from the start before and go from there.”
Wells hit his 250th career home run in the fifth, connecting against reliever David Phelps for a 7-0 lead.
Phelps had started his major league career this year by retiring 13 straight batters before Wells homered. That was the lone hit Phelps gave up in 5 1-3 innings.
The 25-year-old Phelps was born in St. Louis. The first hitter he faced in this game was Pujols, one of the greatest players in Cardinals’ history. Phelps retired Pujols three straight times.
“I’ve been rooting for him pretty much my whole life in St. Louis,” Phelps said. “He’s intimidating. You’ve got a small margin of error, so you go out there trying to bear down as much as I can and make my pitches.”
Pujols got in the swing after a quiet start with his new team. He singled sharply his first time up and hit an RBI double the next time at the plate. He later lined out twice and flied out to the fence in left.
The three-time NL MVP is still looking for his first home run of the year. He hasn’t connected in eight games — that matches his longest homer drought at the start of a season, also done in 2008 with St. Louis.
“The thing we don’t want to do is put too much pressure on yourself,” Pujols said.
Wilson (2-0) effectively pitched inside and worked out of frequent trouble, allowing only one run in six innings. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the game and stranded runners at second and third in each of his last three innings.
Wilson, who along with Pujols signed a rich free-agent deal in the offseason, had been 0-3 lifetime against the Yankees. That spanned 21 games, four of them starts.
“I don’t know if it’s about anybody having to own up to any contract,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Los Angeles had lost five of its previous six games, with poor starts a major culprit. Wilson provided the key pitches — as he did in his debut against Minnesota — and delivered yet another quality performance on the road.
The Angels backed Wilson with big hits, most of them off Hughes. The three home runs equaled their total from the entire season.
Iannetta put them ahead with his first AL homer, a two-run slice inside the right-field foul pole in the second. Pujols made it 3-0 with his double in the third and Kendrick, a longtime Yankees nemesis, homered in the fourth. Kendrick got three hits.
Robinson Cano singled home the Yankees’ run in the fifth for his first RBI of the season.
NOTES: Phelps is one of just three Yankees to have a relief appearance longer than five innings in the last six seasons. Hector Noesi (2011) and Kei Igawa (2007) each went six innings. … Yankees OF Brett Gardner did not play while slowed by flulike symptoms. … Top Yankees prospect LHP Manny Banuelos is on the disabled list in Triple-A with back trouble. He’s been wild and ineffective in two starts.
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