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NYY@BOS: Hughes hurls 7 1/3 scoreless vs. Red Sox

The last time Phil Hughes took the mound during the Yankees' playoff chase, he stifled the Red Sox over 7 1/3 innings in a 2-0 win.

"We can't be thinking about scoreboard watching or worrying about every single game," Hughes said afterward. "We have to go out and win every game that we can control."

Hughes -- 15-12 with a 3.96 ERA this season -- will have some control over the Yankees' fate on Thursday night, when New York closes out its three-game series against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. That's good news for the Yanks, considering Hughes' recent success.

The right-hander, who will be pitching on six days' rest, has gone 4-2 with a 2.29 ERA and a 32-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last six starts.

A continuation of that run would be a boon for the Yankees, who took sole possession of first place over the Orioles in the American League East on Wednesday, when they took both ends of their doubleheader against the Blue Jays. New York has won four straight and six of seven.

The Blue Jays find themselves in a much different situation, at 66-81 and sitting in last place in the AL East. The club hasn't finished a season in last place in the division since 2004. Toronto is also 23-38 since the All-Star break, but manager John Farrell is still finding some bright spots amid the adversity.

"We can point to a number of individuals that have had outstanding years," Farrell said on Wednesday. "We have found out about young players that -- without the injuries or without the opportunity that was created because of injuries -- [wouldn't have had a chance], such as an Aaron Loup, or the additions to our bullpen. Our bullpen has morphed into a much deeper and much more talented group.

"As we go through year to year, we find out more about the core players going forward and who those core players are going to be. While the wins and losses don't meet our vision coming out of Spring Training, there are some tangible accomplishments in the areas mentioned."

On Thursday, the Blue Jays will start Aaron Laffey. The left-hander is 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) since July 26, having walked 24 and struck out 23 in that span.

Laffey's last start, on Friday against the Red Sox, was his shortest of the season, as he gave up three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Blue Jays: Escobar's suspension nearly over
• Thursday's series finale will be the last game shortstop Yunel Escobar will sit out due to his three-game suspension for wearing eye-black stickers containing a homophobic slur written in Spanish. The Blue Jays are hoping that the 29-year-old Escobar will return from his hiatus having learned something from the experience.

"There is a definite role-model responsibility that some guys might not realize or might not want to take on," Farrell said, "but it's part of being a Major League player."

• Edwin Encarnacion missed both ends of Wednesday's doubleheader as he continues to recover from a right big toe injury. Encarnacion, with 40 home runs and 102 RBIs, last played on Saturday.

Yankees: Jeter returns to field, gets milestone
• Derek Jeter had played the previous four games at designated hitter before sitting out Game 1 of Wednesday's twin bill. But in the nightcap, he was back at shortstop despite the bone bruise in his left ankle, and he promptly reached Toronto's Ricky Romero for a first-inning single.

With that, Jeter not only extended his current hitting streak to 13 games but also locked up his eighth straight 200-hit season, tying Lou Gehrig's franchise record. Jeter went 1-for-4 with a walk and is batting .390 (23-for-59) during his hitting streak.

• There was talk that outfielder Brett Gardner might be activated from the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday, but the Yankees elected to wait. Gardner, recovering from a strained right elbow, would be used primarily as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, and the club would need to clear space on its 40-man roster for him.

Worth noting
• The Blue Jays' Omar Vizquel smacked an RBI double in the eighth inning of Game 1 on Wednesday to pass Babe Ruth for sole possession of 41st place on the all-time hits list with 2,874.

• Hughes has a 4.63 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays this season but held them to one run in seven innings on Aug. 28. Laffey gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees on Aug. 11.

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