The Yankees' uphill climb in the American League Wild Card race has just about reached its apex.
A month ago, the Bronx Bombers sat seven games back of the second Wild Card spot in the American League, and they seemed destined for a quiet September.
But they have dramatically stormed back and now sit alone in trailing only the Rays, by one game, having passed the other three challengers for that coveted final AL playoff spot.
One of those teams that now trails the Yankees is division-rival Baltimore, and the two clubs will wrap up their pivotal four-game series on Thursday night.
The Orioles, who are one-half game back of the Yankees in the race to catch Tampa Bay, haven't won a season series against New York since 1997 -- also the last time they finished ahead of the Yankees in the standings. The two clubs have each won nine games against each other this season, with only Thursday's showdown at Camden Yards remaining.
Phil Hughes gets the ball for the Yankees after he had his most recent start skipped when he was replaced by David Huff, who had a dreadful outing against Boston on Saturday, allowing nine runs in 3 1/3 innings. As a result, manager Joe Girardi opted to hand the ball back to Hughes, who hasn't picked up a win since July 2 and has posted a 6.69 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP since the All-Star break.
"We just have to win games," Hughes said. "There's no underlying stories there. I'm just trying to help us out, throw the ball as well as I can and do the best job that I can. I'm excited for that. I'm not really worried about redemption or proving anybody wrong or stuff like that. I'm just trying to throw as many quality innings as I can."
Hughes will have to contend with slugging Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who is in search of his 50th home run this season. Davis would be just the second player in Orioles history to mash 50 home runs, joining Brady Anderson, who launched 50 in 1996.
On the mound for Baltimore will be southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who pitched well on Saturday against the White Sox, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings. In that start, Chen showed unusually solid command, striking out eight hitters -- one off a season high -- but walking none.
Yankees: Jeter shut down
If the Yankees are going to pull off their remarkable Wild Card comeback, they'll have to do so without their captain.
Shortstop Derek Jeter, who has struggled to recover from a fractured left ankle, was shut down for the year on Wednesday. It marks his fourth stint on the disabled list this season.
"The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me, physically," Jeter said. "I guess this is kind of fitting that it ends like this."
Orioles: Markakis family welcomes son
On Wednesday, Christina Markakis, the wife of Nick Markakis, gave birth to the family's third child, a boy named Toby.
Manager Buck Showalter left Markakis out of Wednesday's starting lineup after his right fielder was at the hospital at 4 a.m. ET.
"I can tell how tired Nicky was because he texted 7 pounds and 16 ounces," Showalter kidded. "That is 8 pounds, right? That's a big boy."
• In eight lifetime at-bats against Chen, Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner has five hits, including two doubles and a home run.
• Davis' 27 home runs at Camden Yards this season are a ballpark record. He needs one more to pass Frank Robinson for the club's all-time home record. Robinson hit 27 at Memorial Stadium in 1966.
• Closers Mariano Rivera and Jim Johnson are among the seven pitchers in Major League history to record at least 94 saves in a two-season span.