Yankees remain hopeful but know they probably can't lose again

Yankees' Eduardo Nunez celebrates his fourth-inning home run

Yankees' Eduardo Nunez celebrates his fourth-inning home run against the San Francisco Giants. (Sept. 21, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Inside the Yankees' clubhouse the other night, CC Sabathia was about as animated as he gets while talking to reporters, excitedly saying the Yankees have to embrace a win-out mentality.

That's probably what they'll need to do to make the playoffs as the American League's second wild card -- win their seven remaining games -- and they'll need some help, too.

It's a hefty lift, no doubt, and the mathematical odds of a postseason berth are decidedly not in their favor, especially given the fact that they're one of six teams vying for the two spots.

Yet even though the Yankees awoke Saturday with a 1.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus, why does it still feel as though this race is far from over?

Desperation can do funny things to teams in playoff races at this time of year, and the Yankees -- for two days, at least -- have avoided the scenario that manager Joe Girardi keeps talking about. After watching his team drop two of three in Toronto to conclude a 4-6 road trip, he repeatedly has said they cannot afford to lose another game.

Less than 24 hours after Alex Rodriguez's grand slam gave the Yankees a much-needed 5-1 win over the Giants, they looked as if they had received a collective spark, producing their best all-around team performance in quite a while on Saturday.

Ivan Nova rebounded from his poor start in Boston last weekend and threw a six-hit shutout. Alfonso Soriano homered for the second consecutive game. Eduardo Nuñez hit a two-run shot.

The result was another resoundingly feel-good victory, this time by the score of 6-0, adding a bit more fuel to the notion that maybe they indeed can make this improbable run.

"This is what you need the rest of the way,'' Girardi said.

Added Soriano, "If we play like we did last night and today, we feel like we can win all seven games.''

The Yankees' longest winning streak this year is six, and now players are openly talking about trying to win nine consecutive games (with two already in hand).

And of course we realize how unlikely that would be.

Sabathia's reasoning regarding why he thinks winning out is possible is this: "Why not?'' Heck, that's essentially the equivalent of the New York Lottery folks trying to tempt people to buy a ticket for a minuscule chance at millions of dollars by saying, "Hey, you never know.''

But admit it: It sure is hard to count the Yankees out just yet, considering how this season has unfolded to date.

Despite the injuries to their most valuable offensive players -- Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner -- they haven't folded. Despite losing five of six to close their recent road trip, the Yankees somehow still have hope.

"Today's a new day,'' Girardi said upon returning home Friday, and his team has followed his lead, plowing forward and embracing the tenuous reality of its bleak postseason situation.

On Sunday, the Yankees will honor Mariano Rivera in a pregame ceremony and then watch as Andy Pettitte makes what could be his final home start.

It's destined to be an emotional afternoon for the organization, a day to say goodbye to two mainstays from their championship years.

But no one is running from the fact that the most important task of the day is another win to keep the momentum alive, at least for another day.

This week the Yankees host the Tampa Bay Rays -- who currently own the first wild card -- followed by a regular season-ending weekend trip to Houston to face the Astros, the team with baseball's worst record.

Think the Yankees can do the improbable -- win out and somehow eke out a spot in the playoffs?

Hey, you never know.

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