TORONTO - Alex Rodriguez believes.
"Crazier things have happened," the third baseman said.
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So, too, does Robinson Cano.
"We will," the second baseman said of the Yankees making the playoffs, mentioning the spiritual and the retiring Mariano Rivera. "I think God has a plan for Mo."
Always the optimist, the same goes for Joe Girardi.
"I don't stop believing," he said.
All spoke after Sunday night's 9-2 loss that completed a three-game sweep for the Red Sox, who outscored the Yankees 22-7 in a mostly non-competitive series.
But make no mistake, the visitors clubhouse at Fenway Park did not have a Pollyanna feel to it. It very much felt like a room of players who, according to coolstandings.com, have a 6.5-percent chance of grabbing one of the two AL wild-card spots.
But 6.5 percent is better than zero, and given what's happening ahead of them in the standings, their chances might be a little bit better than that with 12 games left.
The Rangers and Rays, in collapse mode for several weeks, started a four-game series Monday night in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tampa Bay won the opener, leaving the Yankees 21/2 games behind Texas (three in the loss column) for the second wild-card spot. It's a significant deficit but one that feels as if it should be more, especially after the lost weekend at Fenway.
"We're not the only team that's ran into hard times in the month of September and August," Girardi said. "All these other teams are running into hard times, too. So we still have a great opportunity. We have to win a lot of games but the opportunity's in front of us."
That starts tonight at Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays.
It is the start of the "opportunity" Girardi spoke of -- facing teams such as the Blue Jays and Giants that have little to play for at this point, then the Rays next Tuesday-Thursday at the Stadium. The Yankees finish the season in Houston against the woeful Astros.
"We have, what, 12 games left?" Rodriguez said. "You never know. Crazier things have happened. We just have to worry about getting back on a good winning streak on Tuesday."
As the Yankees try to put together the kind of streak that gets them to the playoffs -- realistically, they'll likely have to go a minimum of 9-3 -- naturally, there are injury issues, starting with Rodriguez.
The third baseman left last Tuesday's game against the Orioles in Baltimore with a left hamstring injury. Though he started five straight games at designated hitter to minimize the risk to it, Rodriguez managed to strain his right calf running the bases Sunday night and departed in the fifth inning.
"I'm hoping we caught it before it got really bad," said Rodriguez, who spent yesterday getting treatment on the calf. "I've had a calf injury before and they're tricky and they're very dangerous, so I'm hoping I came out of the game before something really bad happened. Fingers crossed."
That wasn't the only injury on this trip that started last Monday in Baltimore. Brett Gardner suffered what likely was a season-ending oblique injury and Alfonso Soriano sprained his right thumb, though he missed only one game. Lefty Boone Logan, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 6 because of inflammation in his elbow, was shipped off to Pensacola, Fla., to visit Dr. James Andrews.
But injury news is old news to Girardi, who admitted long ago to becoming numb to the stuff. And right now, his concerns are with the players he does have.
"We have a chance to turn it around on Tuesday," Girardi said. "These guys have gotten up off the carpet many times and we'll have to do it again if we want to play in October. We're going to have to put together a really good streak."