ARLINGTON, Texas – Struggling New York Yankees starter Phil Hughes conjured up the wrong memories of his past games at Rangers Ballpark.
Instead of the dominating pitcher he was in his previous three regular-season games in Texas, he more resembled the one who got hammered there in the postseason two years ago.
The big right-hander struggled again in what is already becoming a difficult 2012 season, not making it out of the third inning in a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.
"Something has to change. I just have to keep working hard. That's all I can do. I feel good with the stuff I'm throwing," Hughes said. "Every outing like this is disappointing. It's tough to deal with, you just hope things get better before they get worse."
Texas led 4-0 after 2 2-3 innings against Hughes (1-3), whose season ERA increased from 6.75 to 7.88. He allowed five hits, struck out two and then hit two batters in his last inning.
The Rangers were ahead to stay after Adrian Beltre led off the second against Hughes with his third homer, a 441-foot drive that landed high on the grassy hill in straightaway center field. Beltre added a run-scoring single an inning later when Texas added three more runs.
"We believe he can do it and I know he believes he can do, but right now sometimes the ball runs back a little bit, he leaves the curveball up a little bit. Cutter sometimes isn't getting where he wants it," manager Joe Girardi said. "It is frustrating, but you have to keep working at it."
Hughes had allowed only three hits in 15 1-3 scoreless innings his previous three regular-season appearances against Texas — all at Rangers Ballpark. His first major league victory came there in May 2007, when he threw 6 1-3 scoreless innings in his second major league start.
But there were also those two AL championship series games in Texas since, when Hughes allowed 11 runs in 8 2-3 innings to lose both in 2010.
Rookie left-hander Robbie Ross worked 2 2-3 perfect innings in relief for his major league-best tying fourth victory, and the Rangers their sixth consecutive series to start a season for the first time in franchise history.
"He's doing the job, he has no fear, he throws the ball over the plate," manager Ron Washington said.
As for the two-time defending American League champion Rangers (15-4) having the best record in the majors, Washington said, "We're just playing complete baseball."
Mile Napoli and Mitch Moreland also homered.
After Scott Feldman gave up two runs in 3 1-3 innings of a spot start, Ross retired all eight batters he faced with two strikeouts.
The Rangers said Ross (4-0) is the first pitcher in the majors since at least 1918 to earn four relief wins in his first six career appearances. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his eight innings, either.
"I didn't expect anything like this," said Ross, who wasn't even really in the team's plans for this season until an impressive spring.
Ross is getting noticed for more than a cowboy get-up put together by veteran pitchers, including a kiddie vest and hat and pink backpack, that he has to put on before each game to walk from the dugout to the bullpen.
"I'm totally fine with that as long as I can be here," he said.
The Rangers have won 12 consecutive regular season series overall, dating back to last year.
New York had won six road games in a row after their 7-4 victory in the series opener at Texas. But the Yankees have now lost consecutive games for the first time since getting swept in three games at Tampa Bay to start the season.
Derek Jeter had two more hits, extending his hitting streak to 16 games. He raised his average to .420 and his majors-leading hits total to 34.
Napoli led off the fourth with his seventh homer. That came off David Phelps, who gave up a leadoff shot to Moreland two innings later before Beltre had another RBI single.
Raul Ibanez drove in two runs for the Yankees, including a solo homer that landed deep in the second deck of seats in right field off Neftali Feliz to start the seventh.
Feliz, the closer-turned-No. 5 starter, pitched an inning of relief since the Rangers are skipping his turn in the rotation since his scheduled day to pitch was Thursday.
It was the first relief appearance for Feliz since his blown save in Game 6 of the World Series, when Texas was twice within a strike of a championship-clinching victory before losing.
NOTES: Andy Pettitte, the 39-year-old LHP working on a comeback to the Yankees rotation after a year hiatus, allowed three earned runs and seven singles in five-plus innings for Double-A Trenton. He threw 59 of 81 pitches for strikes. ... Yankees RHP Michael Pineda will miss the entire season because of a tear in the labrum of his right shoulder. He will have arthroscopic surgery Tuesday. ... All three games against the Yankees were sellouts. The Rangers have already sold every reserved seat for all three games this weekend against the Rays.