Storm forces early exit for Hughes but not Guthrie

Things might have turned out differently for the Yankees Monday night if not for the thunderstorm that hit Yankee Stadium in the fourth inning and forced a 59-minute rain delay. The interruption ended Phil Hughes’ night while Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie continued and went on to end a personal three-game losing streak.

Hughes seemed to be getting into a groove after giving up two runs in the second on a solo home run by Billy Butler and doubles by Mike Moustakas and David Lough. Hughes followed with two scoreless innings, but the rain washed out the rest of his evening.

Upon resumption, Guthrie, who got off to a 5-0 start this season but had lost six of his previous eight decisions, continued to frustrate the Yankees, who did not get a runner past second base until the seventh inning when with two out Lyle Overbay homered as a pinch hitter for new first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who struck out in his two at-bats. Overbay’s jack was the Yankees’ first long ball in six games since Robinson Cano went deep July 2 at Minneapolis.

Overbay’s 10th home run of the season and third career pinch homer made the score 3-1, so the Yankees were in striking distance, but the Royals scored two runs in the ninth off Preston Claiborne to create more distance. Yet in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees posed a major threat by loading the bases with none out on a walk to Overbay and singles by Luis Cruz and Chris Stewart.

The opportunity fizzled as hard-throwing Royals closer Greg Holland struck out Eduardo Nunez, Brett Gardner and Zoilo Almonte for his 21st save. Gardner, who was called out on strikes, set a dubious franchise record by striking out in 16 consecutive games. Once more, the Yanks’ offense was pretty much station to station. Only three of their 32 hits in the past four games have been for extra bases.

Hughes’ record fell to 4-8. He has lost six of his past eight decisions since May 15 and is 2-6 with a 4.64 ERA (54.1IP, 28ER) in 10 starts covering 54 1/3 innings over that stretch. Hughes has allowed at least one home run in seven of those starts.

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