The afternoon quickly unraveled for the Twins, trampled by weight of a powerful rally by the Detroit Tigers.
Miguel Cabrera went deep twice, rookie catcher James McCann used a two-run inside-the-park homer to tie the game in the sixth and the Tigers took the series with a 10-7 win over the Twins on Wednesday.
"The old cliche is you can't run the clock out. You've got to get the rest of those outs," third baseman Trevor Plouffe said.
The Twins were ahead 7-3, the first time Hughes had pitched with a lead this year, after a seven-run burst against Shane Greene over the fourth and the fifth. Joe Mauer drove in runs with a double and a single, Oswaldo Arcia hit a two-run homer and Trevor Plouffe had a three-run shot for the Twins, who also hit three bunt singles.
But then Hughes started to see double. Five Tigers in a stretch of seven at-bats delivered two-base hits, including run-scoring doubles by Cabrera and McCann.
"I'm sure he's pressing to get that first win," manager Paul Molitor said. "It just hasn't happened for him yet."
Hughes finished five innings before being removed because of a mild left hip flexor strain, and Cabrera and J.D. Martinez hit home runs in the sixth off Tim Stauffer. Aaron Thompson relieved with two out and one on, when McCann's deep fly eluded center fielder Jordan Schafer and ricocheted sharply along the warning track.
By the time Arcia retreated from shallow right field to retrieve the ball, McCann was rounding third.
Hughes said he could've pitched through the tightness, but he didn't want to risk aggravation. He will throw in the bullpen in a couple of days and assess his leg then.
"It wasn't terrible, but I just didn't want it to fester," Hughes said.
Casey Fien (1-2) was the bad-luck loser.
TROUBLE IN THE FIELD
Arcia was in chase mode on a handful of balls hit his way that a faster right fielder might have been able to catch, more evidence of the below-average outfield defense that has hampered the Twins the last few years.
The biggest fielding problem, though, came in the eighth when Fien should have escaped without a run.
Plouffe called for a harmless pop-up by Yoenis Cespedes with one out that tailed away from him and bounced on the mound in front of five Twins. Three batters later, Andrew Romine hit the go-ahead RBI single.
Plouffe said he lost the ball in the sun until it was too late.
"I tried to get around it to get a good view of it, and by the time I did see it I called for it and I was in no position to catch it," he said. "But it's a play I have to make."
With right-hander Ricky Nolasco soon ready to leave the disabled list, the Twins will remove someone from the rotation. Manager Paul Molitor said he doesn't want a six-man group, and general manager Terry Ryan indicated right-hander Mike Pelfrey will stay in place after posting a 2.25 ERA over his first four starts. Right-hander Trevor May (1-1, 4.91 ERA) was deemed fit to take the mound Thursday after a line drive hit his right elbow and knocked him out of his previous start.
The Twins also lost Schafer in the sixth inning to a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and the right-hander Fien in the ninth to a reprise of the shoulder injury that hampered him earlier this month.
The Twins stay home for a four-game series beginning Thursday against Chicago's ace Chris Sale (2-0, 2.37 ERA). This will be the first performance in front of paying customers for the White Sox in four days, after their first two games in Baltimore were postponed and the third against the Orioles was played in an empty ballpark because of safety concerns in the city.