Making his second career postseason start, Hughes was rocked for seven runs in four-plus innings by Texas' offense, which mixed its big-swinging attack with a dash of speed to send the series on to New York tied.
"I really didn't give us a chance to win today," Hughes said. "That's the most disappointing thing. You try to go out there and minimize damage -- you saw what we did last night -- and we could have a chance. Really, being down five in the later innings, you can't do that every time."
And the Bombers wouldn't, not with Colby Lewis -- a virtual unknown to the Yankees, who hadn't faced him since August 2003 -- stifling them into the sixth. After blowing a lead for C.J. Wilson in Game 1, the Rangers' bullpen hung on, snapping a string of 10 consecutive Yankees playoff victories over Texas that dated back to 1996.
"This is not going to be an easy series," said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who went hitless in the loss. "Just like last year in Anaheim and Philadelphia, we have to battle. We faced two really good starting pitchers; they were dominant. For us to be able to split with the way that those two guys pitched, you've got to be confident."
The Yankees had been sure of numbers that pointed in Hughes' favor coming in, as the decision was made to flip him and Andy Pettitte in the rotation sequence that swept the Twins in the AL Division Series.
A 24-year-old right-hander who won 18 games in the regular season and once more in the playoffs, Hughes had not allowed a run in three career appearances (two starts) at Rangers Ballpark, surrendering just three hits in 15 1/3 scoreless innings.
But Hughes couldn't figure why this was a comfortable place for him to pitch, and perhaps it no longer is. The small sample sizes didn't translate on Saturday, as Hughes couldn't get a feel for his secondary pitches and lost his swing-and-miss fastball after the first inning.
"He was up in the zone today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He didn't have much of a curveball. If you leave the ball up in the zone, it's a dangerous club, and they hurt him."
The end result saw Hughes hit hard, falling into a daunting 5-0 hole -- just as Texas had done to CC Sabathia in Game 1.
"They didn't really allow me to get ahead in the counts too many times," Hughes said. "When I missed, they hit the ball hard. A lot of times when I miss, it's fouled off or something. It seemed like all of my fastballs over the plate were finding their barrels."
Elvis Andrus manufactured a Texas run in the first inning, legging out an infield hit before moving up on a wild pitch and a stolen base, then taking off as the back end of a double steal with Josh Hamilton.
Jorge Posada's throw down to second base came back too late to get Andrus, who slid home safely with the first postseason steal of home plate since the Angels' Brad Fullmer did so in the 2002 World Series.
"I'm looking at opportunities, and it presented itself -- that's the type of game we play," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I took a chance that the throw would be made to second base. If [Posada] faked it, it wouldn't have happened. But he didn't fake it, so we executed."
In the second, David Murphy connected for a solo homer that banged off the second-deck facing in right field, and Michael Young added an RBI double. Three Texas doubles opened up a 5-0 lead in the third, with Murphy and Bengie Molina picking up RBIs.
Girardi allowed Hughes to start the fifth, but Nelson Cruz dented the top of the center-field wall with a bullet double and Ian Kinsler laced a run-scoring triple past a diving Nick Swisher in right field.
"He was still getting some outs for us, so we decided to stay with him," Girardi said. "And he struggled today. There is no doubt about it, and I expect him to pitch better next time."
Mitch Moreland added an RBI single off reliever Joba Chamberlain, the seventh and final run charged to Hughes, who allowed 10 hits. In the first two games of the ALCS, Yankees starters have allowed 12 runs in eight innings, a 13.50 ERA.
"We're not off to a great start pitching, but there's still a lot of baseball left to be played," said Sabathia, who took a no-decision in Game 1. "We're going to have to pitch well to win this thing."
The Rangers have done it, at least out of the rotation. Lewis allowed just two runs on six hits, walking three and striking out two over 5 2/3 innings.
"He threw the ball well," Derek Jeter said. "He mixed his pitches up and threw a lot of offspeed pitches that looked like we had a little trouble picking up."
"I felt like I commanded a lot of pitches and was able to get some quick outs," Lewis said. "I was a little disappointed that I couldn't go deep in the game, but it was definitely relaxing for those guys to go out there and put up the runs they did today."
The Yankees broke through against Lewis in the fourth inning, as Robinson Cano doubled, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a Lance Berkman hit that tipped Moreland's glove at first base.
But Berkman went too far and was caught in an inning-ending rundown, the first signs that another wild comeback might not be in the cards.
"Today we just didn't do it -- you can't do it every day," Berkman said. "It's a tough game, particularly in the playoffs, when you have runners in scoring position. I think we did a great job in the Twins series, a great job [in Game 1] capitalizing on the opportunities we had. Today was not a great day."
Cano also homered in the sixth, but with New York faring 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, it wasn't enough to avoid the club's first loss of this postseason. Looking ahead to Game 3, when Andy Pettitte must go up against the dominant Cliff Lee, provides little additional comfort.
But as they jetted back to New York, the Yankees' glasses seemed half-full. They still could thump their chests about rescuing Game 1 from the depths of defeat, and now Yankee Stadium will play host to the next three contests, effectively giving the Yankees home-field advantage in the remaining games.
"Just because Cliff is pitching, it's not a guaranteed win for anybody, you know what I mean?" Jeter said. "You come out and you play the games for a reason. We'll see what happens. If you're going to win, you've got to beat good pitching."