Happy teammates celebrate with New York Yankees Juan Miranda, far...

Happy teammates celebrate with New York Yankees Juan Miranda, far left, after Miranda drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the winning run in the Yankees 10th inning, 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox in their baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010. Shown from left are Miranda, Greg Golson, second from right, and Robinson Cano, far right. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

One game, and all is well again in the Yankees' universe.

One game, and Joe Girardi's face can expand from a golf ball to a full moon.

One thrilling, memorable, marvelous ballgame at Yankee Stadium. If we're not going to get Yankees-Red Sox in the postseason, they at least provided us a playoff-caliber game in September. With the Yankees exhaling as though they had just secured the pennant.

"It would've been devastating to lose this game tonight," Alex Rodriguez said early Monday morning after the Yankees outlasted Boston, 4-3, in 10 innings.

One game, double the impact: By defeating the Red Sox, the Yankees lowered their magic number for clinching a playoff berth from three to one. With one more victory in their remaining six contests, or one more Red Sox loss in Boston's remaining seven contests, the Yankees will go to the postseason for the 15th time in 16 years.

They're just a half-game behind the Rays for the American League East lead - although, remember, they lose the tiebreaker with Tampa Bay if the teams finish with the same record - and as they headed to Toronto, they looked like a new group of guys. The thought of a five-game losing streak, the notion of an ultra-historic collapse, was behind them.

"That's a huge win for us," Girardi said.

Girardi, who has been in the eye of the Yankees' storm, put himself on the line by replacing scheduled starter Dustin Moseley with Phil Hughes - who had been pushed back to Wednesday to keep his innings limits in line. After Girardi spent the entire month managing with patience and self-discipline, the move screamed of panic.

Hughes pitched very well, allowing one run in six-plus innings. But he departed losing 1-0, and had Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka kept dominating the Yankees, the story would've been "Girardi fires bullet, misses target."

At this time of year, however, process gets trumped by results. And managers get trumped by players. A-Rod's two-run blast to right-centerfield in the seventh inning - on an 0-and-2 pitch and against a driving wind - spoke much louder than any Girardi maneuver.

For this was a night when both Girardi and Boston counterpart Terry Francona got the game to precisely where they wanted it: Each handed a lead to his closer. First Mariano Rivera and then Jonathan Papelbon gave up those edges, with superb late-inning hitting and baserunning by both sides.

Then, in the bottom of the 10th, Boston's Hideki Okajima walked Juan Miranda with the bases loaded and one out to force home Curtis Granderson.

Great game. Enormous game. Perhaps even one of those "Yankees Classic" games on YES, if they can procure the rights from ESPN.

Just one game, and all of a sudden, it's all right once more for Yankees fans to think of many more games to come.