With just 11 games left in the season and the American League Wild Card race getting tighter each day, the Yankees know there is little room for error.
After falling to the Blue Jays, 2-0, on Tuesday, the Yankees are 3 1/2 games back of the Rays and Rangers for one of two postseason spots entering Wednesday's contest.
So if starter Phil Hughes gets into any trouble on Wednesday night in Toronto, Yankees manager Joe Girardi could again have a quick hook. Girardi had the right-hander on a short leash in his last outing on Thursday, removing him after just 50 pitches in a game where he had given up just one run.
Should New York's skipper employ the same game plan Wednesday in Toronto, long man David Huff could again pitch in tandem with Hughes. That strategy earned the Yankees a victory on Thursday, as Hughes gave up one run over three innings and Huff gave up one more over three innings of his own in a 6-5 win over the Orioles.
"After having not pitched a lot in the last couple of weeks, command was my biggest concern," Hughes said on Thursday. "It was pretty good. I didn't walk anybody and I was throwing a lot of strikes, so I was happy with that."
The Blue Jays will be looking for a little more length out of starter J.A. Happ, who has struggled with high pitch counts in recent outings. The left-hander hasn't completed six innings in six straight starts dating back to Aug. 17, and he's failed to get out of the fifth inning in three of his last four.
Happ has not been effective against the Yankees this season, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA over three starts.
"I'm just trying to prove to myself more than anything," Happ said after giving up four runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Angels on Thursday. "You want to keep the team in the game and you want to have respect. I'm thinking about the team more than I'm thinking about anybody else analyzing me. I hope to go out and finish strong, that's for sure."
Yankees: A-Rod's legs keep him out of field
The Yankees should continue to have Alex Rodriguez's bat in the lineup during their series with the Blue Jays and for the rest of the season, but they might not be able to play him at third base for a while.
Rodriguez injured his left hamstring in Baltimore last week and had to be removed from Sunday night's game against the Red Sox after feeling tightness in his right calf. Girardi said Rodriguez would continue to see playing time as the designated hitter, but that he likely won't play the field on the Rogers Centre turf.
Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. For the season, he is batting .275 with six home runs and 14 RBIs.
"I feel like if he can play, he can be productive," Girardi said. "I don't know how much we will get out of him in the field. But I still think that if he feels like he can swing the bat, he can be productive."
Blue Jays: Sierra taking advantage of extended playing time
With both Jose Bautista and Melky Cabrera out for the remainder of the season, 24-year-old outfielder Moises Sierra has been given a chance to prove what he can do as an everyday player for the Blue Jays. And he's taken advantage of the opportunity.
Since being called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Aug. 21, Sierra is batting .306 with a home run and 11 RBIs and has recorded a hit in nine of his 14 games in September.
Sierra will also be happy to see Hughes on the mound on Wednesday, as the outfielder is 6-for-11 all time against the Yankees' starter, with a home run and five RBIs.
• Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus homered Tuesday in his third straight game since being activated from the disabled list, belting a solo shot off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in the fourth inning.
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.