The New York Yankees can't afford to turn in a series against the Chicago White Sox like they did last month if they want to remain in contention for the playoffs.
Phil Hughes surprisingly may give them a chance to get off to a good start in this one even though he is winless in nine outings.
Hughes owns a lower ERA against the White Sox than versus any other AL foe as the Yankees open a three-game home set Monday.
New York (72-64) was swept at Chicago from Aug. 5-7 even though the lowly White Sox entered that series on a 10-game slide. Alex Rodriguez notably made his season debut in that set.
Hughes (4-13, 4.91 ERA) is 0-6 with a 5.84 ERA in his last nine starts, and failed to last five innings for the fourth time in six outings when he gave up five runs over 4 2-3 in last Monday's 5-2 loss at Toronto. That start came after there were positive signs in consecutive six-inning stints.
"I left a lot of sliders over the middle of the plate," Hughes said. "It didn't really seem like it had the bite that it did in the last couple (of starts)."
The right-hander was originally scheduled to start Sunday against Baltimore, but was pushed back by manager Joe Girardi.
That may pay dividends since Hughes owns a 1.38 ERA against the White Sox (56-79), and is 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA in six starts versus them.
He has fared well against Chicago regulars such as Gordon Beckham (1 for 13), Alexei Ramirez (1 for 11), Adam Dunn (1 for 9) and Paul Konerko (3 for 14).
The Yankees trail Tampa Bay by 3 1/2 games for the AL's second wild card after blowing a three-run lead in Sunday's 7-3 defeat. New York captured the first two games of the weekend set to move ahead of the Orioles, who promptly moved one-half game back in front of the Yankees.
"You talk about winning series, but when you win the first two and you're up 3-0, you get greedy," Girardi told the Yankees' official website. "And that's the hard part."
Rodriguez went 0 for 3 with a walk after sitting out one game with flu-like symptoms. Robinson Cano was 0 for 5 after going 4 for 7 with four RBIs in the first two games of the series.
The Yankees scored three times in four innings off Wei-Yin Chen - the first of four straight left-handers they will face.
Next up is Chicago's Jose Quintana (7-4, 3.66), who gave up one run over 6 2-3 innings to earn an 8-1 win over New York on Aug. 5. He has won both career starts against the Yankees.
Quintana is 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in five 2013 starts against AL East opponents, and is 3-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 13 road outings this year. The White Sox have won his last three starts overall.
Chicago starters posted a 10.80 ERA as the club was swept over the weekend at Boston. The White Sox entered that series as winners of 10 of 12.