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BEHIND THE LINES

Yankees' Hughes has a big task

September 05, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

With less than a month remaining in baseball's regular season, the most important game on tonight's schedule will feature the New York Yankees against the Seattle Mariners in the finale of a three-game set at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees, who will start rookie right-hander Phil Hughes, have charged to the front of the wild-card race in the American League. Meanwhile, Seattle recently ended a season-worst, nine-game losing streak.

But the Mariners have to like their chances against Hughes, who has not won a game since Aug. 10 and had a 6.40 earned-run average in six starts last month. Since returning to the rotation after being sidelined because of leg injuries, Hughes has been hit hard and Seattle's contact-hitting lineup, led by Ichiro Suzuki, will be no easy challenge.

Covers.com would have made the Mariners a strong favorite if not for their own struggling starter, left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who has a 6.46 ERA in his last three starts. A key for Washburn will be keeping the up-and-down Johnny Damon off the bases. Since hitting a home run to help the Yankees defeat Boston last week, Damon has only one hit in 19 at-bats. That's one reason why Manager Joe Torre gave Damon the night off Tuesday.

Women's basketball

The Detroit Shock, going for consecutive WNBA titles, will play the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the best-of-five finals tonight at Auburn Hills, Mich.

Oddsmakers have the Shock listed as 2 1/2 -point favorites for tonight's game with the over-under set at 164 points. But Phoenix has nine consecutive victories and Coach Paul Westhead's up-tempo team has scored at least 95 points in every playoff game.

College football

Oregon has a golden opportunity to add to Michigan's woes this weekend in Ann Arbor when they face the Wolverines as eight-point underdogs. The Ducks looked sharp in a victory over Houston last week and Michigan was upset, 34-32, by Appalachian State.

At first glance, everything points to the Wolverines bouncing back in a big way. Michigan is 69-10 at home under Coach Lloyd Carr and in the three previous games Oregon has played at Michigan Stadium, the Ducks have been outscored, 59-0.

Even though Michigan has a 44-21-1 all-time record against Pacific 10 Conference teams, Carr has a 3-5 mark against them.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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