Rookie Phil Hughes was going to throw a no-hitter on Tuesday. The 20-year old who was tabbed only a few hours earlier by his general manager as a work in progress -- the top pitching prospect but furthest thing from the pitching staff's savior -- was going to really do it.
He was about to become everything the Yankees hoped for but were afraid to say in public just yet. He was on his way to becoming a bedtime story for Little Leaguers in the Bronx. A nickname was just around the corner.
Then his left hamstring finished the story 2 1/3 innings before he could, leaving the Yankees on the winning side of a 10-1 romp against the Rangers but feeling like the real losers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Hughes, a young man who was on his way to fame after throwing 6 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball in his second big-league start against the Rangers, is now on his way to the disabled list. Yankees manager Joe Torre estimates that the phenom will miss 4-6 weeks.
"We didn't talk about it, but everybody couldn't wait for him to get out there again," Torre said. "We seemed to have a lot more energy tonight. Whether it was the spark from the way he was going about his business or [that] the players feel good about themselves, whatever it was, it worked for us."
As good as Hughes was, the Yankees hitters were almost better.
The Yankees offense scored two runs in the second inning and four more in the third, the final two on a double by Robinson Cano for a 6-0 lead. In the sixth, run-scoring doubles by Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada extended the Yankees' lead to 8-0.
The runs mattered. Hughes' injury might matter more. He finished with 83 pitches in the outing, the longest of his brief Major League career. He struck out six hitters and walked three.
"He commanded his fastball really well, and he kept us off balance with his curve," Rangers outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "He got in a groove throwing a lot of fastballs. I think he threw a great game, but hopefully, I think we would have made an adjustment on the fastball and got to him. We had some decent swings."
The swings were not good enough. Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina said it appeared the Rangers had no idea how to handle the young hurler. He was that good.
Hughes said that the last time he threw a no-hitter came in high school. He came close in the Minor Leagues and was fully aware that he was in the middle of a no-hitter on Tuesday night. Admittedly not very superstitious, Hughes didn't notice until the sixth or seventh inning that his teammates were avoiding him.
He smiled at the notion of sitting all alone at the end of the bench. He became straight-faced again when he thought about the "what could have beens" and the "what-ifs."
"It's tough," Hughes said. "It puts a damper on the whole thing. I am very happy with my start. I know I will come back from this."
In a scene that will likely be played over and over for the Yankees faithful, Hughes hobbled off the field in the seventh inning with an 0-2 count on Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira. Torre said he would have left his young starter in the game if the circumstances were favorable.
"As long as it wasn't dangerous," Torre said. "He was fine. We were going to allow him to go 100 pitches last time, so I didn't think that would be a problem. He had so much command of what he was doing. He had a pretty good game plan, and he executed."
As for Rangers starter Kameron Loe, he was tagged for 10 hits and nine runs (seven earned) in four innings. He walked one batter and struck out two.
The Rangers snapped the Yankees' bid for a no-hitter in the eighth inning when Hank Blalock hit a double down the right-field line off Mike Myers, but by that time, the no-hitter was an afterthought.
The biggest blow had already been delivered.
"He showed why we have such high hopes for him for our future," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "It was on display tonight. We'll get him back and [see] if he can continue on the journey."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.