Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/29/12

NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes has been called a lot of things in six seasons with the New York Yankees: phenom, shutdown reliever, All-Star starter and even an injury-prone bust.

Now, Hughes might be regaining the moniker attached to him when he was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 2004 draft: potential ace.

Hughes allowed three solo homers but was otherwise effective over seven innings Friday night, and Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer in the first to give the Yankees a lead they'd never relinquish in a 10-3 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of a sellout crowd of 49,571 at Yankee Stadium.

Hughes (10-8) allowed three hits in the first but stranded runners at second and third following Dustin Pedroia's homer. That turned out to be Boston's best chance to chase Hughes, who allowed just solo blasts by Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltalamacchia the rest of the way (increasing the number of homers Hughes has allowed at home to 17, tops in the majors). The right-hander got stronger as the night wore on.

"They put some tough at-bats on him right away, they got some long counts," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Our thinking is it's going to be tough to get seven innings out of him. Might be tough to get six. But he settled down nicely and went right to work."

Hughes retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced, during which he racked up four of his five strikeouts. He walked only one while producing his eighth quality start in his last 10 outings, during which he is 6-3 with a 2.88 ERA and a 58-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 68 2/3 innings. He has lowered his overall ERA from 5.64 to 4.08.

With CC Sabathia entrenched as the Yankees' No. 1 starter, Hughes doesn't have to worry about anchoring the rotation. But after carrying a no-hitter into his second career start as a 20-year-old in May 2007, recording a 1.40 ERA in 44 relief appearances in 2009, winning 18 games as a starter in 2010 and posting a 5.79 ERA during a 2011 in which he was shelved for three months with a sore right arm, Hughes could finally be positioning himself to become a long-term, upper-echelon starter for the Yankees.

"Being aggressive, throwing a lot of strikes -- obviously, with the team we have, we score a lot of runs, which is a nice thing to have," Hughes said. "I've just been trying to avoid long counts, long at-bats and just go right after guys."

Russell Martin hit a two-run homer, while Curtis Granderson's ninth-inning grand slam (his third hit of the night) iced the game for the Yankees, who improved their American League-best record to 60-39. The last-place Red Sox, meanwhile, lost for the sixth time in their last seven games to fall to 49-51.

"The first 100 games have been (terrible)," Pedroia said. "(If) anyone's thrilled about where we're at, they need to re-evaluate, because I don't like losing. I know everyone else doesn't like losing. We've got to play better, man."

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who said before the game he still believed his team was headed in the right direction and could get to 15 or 20 games above .500, remained optimistic afterward.

"We'll turn it around," Valentine said. "We haven't had our big streak yet. That's the good news."

David Robertson worked around a two-out single by Pedroia in the eighth inning, and Cody Eppley allowed two hits and struck out two in the ninth.

The Yankees and Red Sox combined for 81 runs in their first six games this season, and they wasted no time piling up the runs Friday.

Martin's 11th home run in the fourth extended the Yankees' lead to 6-3. Boston's Aaron Cook (2-4) was chased after four innings, his shortest start since he lasted just 2 2/3 innings in an injury-shortened season debut May 5. He allowed six runs on seven hits.

Cook, renowned for an uncanny ability to have opponents put the ball in play, intentionally walked Ibanez before striking out Andruw Jones to end the third. Cook had issued just three walks and recorded just three strikeouts in his first 36 innings this season.

NOTES: Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher didn't start for a sixth straight game due to the left hip flexor strain he suffered against the Oakland Athletics on July 20. Girardi wasn't sure if Swisher could return to the lineup this weekend. ... Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow as well as a dislocated right ankle, threw a bullpen session Friday, and he will pitch for Double-A Trenton on Sunday. Chamberlain has allowed just one earned run in eight innings over six rehab appearances with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees and Class A Tampa. ... Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right Achilles strain he suffered July 17, took batting practice Friday, one day after he shed his walking boot. Valentine hopes Ortiz will return when eligible Aug. 1. The Red Sox have scored just 30 runs in the eight games Ortiz has missed, 17 of which they scored in two games against the White Sox and Blue Jays. "We've faced some pretty good pitching," Valentine said. "David was so on since day one of the season. It's hard to say you haven't missed him. He's pretty good." ... Valentine said struggling left-hander Jon Lester, who is 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA and has allowed 22 runs (21 earned) over 12 1/3 innings in his last three starts, had a "really good bullpen session" Wednesday and that he hopes Lester will use all his pitches when he takes the mound Saturday. "That's probably the biggest thing we're talking about in between starts, not being narrowed down to a one- or two-pitch pitcher," Valentine said. Sabathia will start for the Yankees in the second game of the series.

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