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Yankees unable to take advantage

Hughes can’t keep rivals on the skids

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / April 9, 2011

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The Yankees arrived at Fenway Park yesterday with the same sense of uneasiness felt by many in Red Sox Nation.

“They weren’t going to go without a win,’’ said Yankees catcher Russell Martin. “Going into the season, all the talk was about them being the team to beat.’’

One game into their 18-game miniseason, that’s still true, as far as the Yankees are concerned.

Their 9-6 loss yesterday — which did indeed give the Red Sox their first victory of the season — was marked by another rocky start by Phil Hughes. The righthander, an 18-game winner last season, was rocked for six earned runs and seven hits in two innings.

Although the Yankees have won four of their first seven games, they hardly have looked the part of contenders. Hughes certainly hasn’t provided it in his two starts, with a 16.50 ERA and just six innings of work.

“He’s just not sharp now,’’ said manager Joe Girardi, sounding like Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose starter (John Lackey) gave up six runs in five innings to remarkably lower his ERA to 15.58.

“Two starts don’t make a season,’’ said Girardi. “We have to be patient.’’

When asked if he could say the same things about the Red Sox’ slow start, Girardi did not disagree.

“They are a good team and it was their home opener,’’ he said. “It’s early.’’

The frustrating part for the Yankees is that Hughes said he feels fine.

“It’s just not there,’’ said Hughes. “I’m not injured. I have to fight my way out of it.’’

Girardi is preaching patience.

“If you want to last a long time, you have to find your way to grind your way through things like this,’’ said the Yankees manager.

Yesterday was a grind for both teams, especially from a pitching standpoint — although the Sox’ bullpen picked up Lackey.

Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon showed a flash of the potential everyone talked about in the preseason, combining for four innings of one-hit, five-strikeout shutout ball.

“They have a good bullpen and they are a good team,’’ said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. “Give them credit: They did a good job today. It was their home opener and they needed to win a game.’’

Officially, the season is a week old. Unofficially? It began yesterday for the Sox and Yankees in a miniseason that has 17 games remaining — if not more in the postseason — and the next chapter unfolds this afternoon.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

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