First Pitch: Slip-up free September

About two hours before Sunday's Yanks-Orioles series finale, Joe Girardi talked about the importance of the Yanks avoiding any "slip-ups" as they try to make up ground in the wild-card race.

"You know that you really can't afford too many slip-ups," the manager said. "You gave to play well and you have to win series but you get to a certain point and you continue to make ground, your destiny is going to be in your own control."

Shortly after Girardi said that, the Yankees had a slip-up. A major one.

The bullpen blew a 3-0 seventh-inning lead against Baltimore and lost a chance to sweep the Orioles and move within 2 1/2 games of the second wild card spot.

"It's tough when you're up 3-0," Girardi lamented. "You talk about winning series but when you win the first two and you're up 3-0, you get greedy. That's the hard part."

Things get even harder for the Yankees on Monday, when they turn to Phil Hughes to start in their series opener against the White Sox.

Hughes (4-13, 4.91) had been so unreliable of late that Girardi pushed him back so he couldn't start in any of the weekend games against Baltimore. Hughes hasn't won in his last nine starts and has lost 11 of his last 13 decisions.

If Hughes stumbles again on Monday, the Yanks could lose major ground in the wild-card race.

With 26 games to play, they are 3 1/2 games behind wild-card leaders Oakland and Tampa.

Oakland plays Texas on Monday and Tampa starts a series against the Los Angeles Angels.

UP NOW: Matt Ehalt tackles Joe Girardi's decision to take out Andy Pettitte in the seventh. I ask whether Sunday was Joba Chamberlain's last meaningful appearance as a Yankee.

WHAT'S NEXT: Mike Mazzeo and I have you covered on Monday in the Yankees series opener against the White Sox.

Question: Do you believe Hughes can help the Yankees cause on Monday or should Girardi have opted to start someone else?