Hughes showed improvement over his previous start, but the right-hander still hasn't won at home this season after giving up two runs in six shaky innings as New York lost to Felix Hernandez and the Mariners 9-2 on Wednesday.
"When I look back on what our club has done this year, and when I look back 20 years from now, I probably am not going to remember it," Girardi said about being the team that finally lost to Seattle. "They were going to win a game at some point. We didn't play well, and that's why we got beat."
An 18-game winner in 2010, Hughes (1-3) made just his sixth start this year after missing nearly three months with right shoulder inflammation that caused a drop in velocity. He gave up two runs and nine hits, an improvement over the seven runs he allowed in 4 1-3 innings Friday against punchless Oakland.
"I think he can be sharper. I think his command can get better, and I think his curveball can get even better, and he can use all of his pitches," Girardi said. "Phil Hughes just needs to be Phil Hughes. We want to try to get back to who he was last year."
Hernandez, on the other hand, pitched seven innings for his third straight win in the Bronx. Ichiro Suzuki had four hits and scored two runs. Dustin Ackley tripled among his three hits and drove in three runs as the Mariners did something they failed to accomplish during the skid: they turned an opponent's mistake into a big inning.
Seattle took 21 days worth of frustration out on three relievers, scoring five runs in the seventh inning — highlighted by Mike Carp's bases-loaded triple — after Robinson Cano flubbed a flip to Derek Jeter at second base for an error.
The Mariners added two more in the ninth when Adam Kennedy doubled in Ackley and scored on Carp's single to give Seattle its most runs since it had nine in a win against Tampa Bay on June 5.
"It seemed like everything was clicking today," Ackley said. "It's a good feeling."
After a win July 5, the Mariners were 43-43 and 2½ games back in the AL West, a pleasant early-season surprise. But it all fell apart in a hurry.
The longest skid in the major leagues since Kansas City lost 19 straight in 2005 began with a loss at Oakland on July 6 and included four-game sweeps against two division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers. The Mariners led in seven of the games, twice in the seventh inning, and loss No. 10 — to the Blue Jays — came in 14 innings.
The Mariners' last nine games have been against the AL East. They lost three to Toronto, three to Boston and then dropped the first two to New York, managing just one hit Tuesday night.
"These guys haven't felt good in a long time," manager Eric Wedge said. "We've got a long flight, an off day tomorrow and this is a real big win for us. When you've got a monkey on your back that size, it's damn hard to get it off."
Wedge shaved his mustache after Saturday's loss, pushed back the report time and canceled batting practice Tuesday, but had nothing up his sleeve Wednesday: "No, the only trick is these guys have to go out and do better," he said before the game.
And that's what they did.
The Mariners came in hitting .218 during the streak, but smacked around Hughes.
"It was better. Better is not saying all that much compared to (my) last outing, but it was better," Hughes said. "I'm trying to find myself. I was off the hill for a long time. I'm trying to get back to midseason form."
The Mariners had lost Hernandez's previous five starts, but they had to gain some confidence from sending the AL Cy Young Award winner to the mound.
Hernandez (9-9) had never lost in the new Yankee Stadium, never even given up a run in two starts in the billion-dollar ballpark. In fact, the Mariners beat New York the past five times he started.
He was nearly as dominant in the Bronx again. He gave up two hits through four innings before New York loaded the bases in the fifth on a walk and two hits, one nearly an out when shortstop Brendan Ryan made a diving stop and whirling throw to first. But Justin Smoak's foot was pulled off the bag on the stretch.
Jeter hit a sacrifice fly for the Yankees' first run against King Felix in 21 innings here to make it 2-1.
"That was the key to the game, one run. I made good pitches," Hernandez said. "We made good plays, too."
Hernandez gave up five hits, walked four and struck out five to win for the first time since June 24. He uncharacteristically remained in the dugout for the final two innings.
"I wanted this game so bad," he said.
Cano had a run-scoring groundout in the eighth.
NOTES: Injured Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez (right knee surgery) turned 36. A-Rod will go from Miami to the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., next week to continue his rehab. ... The Yankees likely will activate RHP Rafael Soriano from the 60-day DL on Friday when they open a series against Baltimore. ... Ryan extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Girardi said the Yankees will start A.J. Burnett on Friday against Baltimore. Bartolo Colon will follow for one of the games Saturday — he would not say who will start the other game in the day-night doubleheader — and Freddy Garcia will pitch Sunday.