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Brett Gardner: Yankees must return to winning ways — now

Yankees centerfielder Brett Gardner returns to the dugout

Yankees centerfielder Brett Gardner returns to the dugout after he flied out to end an MLB game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Brett Gardner cut through the we’re-grinding-away-let’s-get-'em-tomorrow silver lining talk so often a part of a losing stretch of baseball by any team, not just the Yankees.

"We just haven't been playing good baseball," Gardner said after his team lost its fifth straight Wednesday night in a 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays. "And, obviously, that's something that we've got to figure out here in relatively short order or our season will be over in short order."

The Yankees entered Thursday night’s game trying to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the scorching-hot Blue Jays, winners of seven straight coming into the night and 10 of their last 11. The Yankees, losers of nine of their last 11 going into Thursday to fall a half-game behind the Red Sox for the top wild-card spot, have seen the Blue Jays climb within 1 ½ games of them for that second position and the Mariners and Athletics remain in the thick of it as well.

And the injury hits keep coming. The Yankees announced Thursday afternoon that Jameson Taillon had been placed on the injured list with a partial tear of a tendon in his right ankle (Aaron Boone said it was too soon to say whether the righthander will miss just one start).

Gardner, while not explicitly sounding the alarm for the rest of the clubhouse, nonetheless gave voice to what didn’t seem possible less than two weeks ago when the Yankees were in the midst of a 13-game winning streak — the postseason is far from a given.

"Hopefully we can turn the page," Gardner said. "We've showed what we're capable of, we just haven't been able to maintain that for an extended period of time. So it's frustrating and disappointing, but you've only got two choices: you can show up tomorrow and get to work and fight through it or lay down and give up and, obviously, we're not going to do that. So we've got a tough group, a resilient group, and hopefully in a month or so we're looking back on this as just another obstacle for us to make us stronger to get to where we want to be."

Boone, who has overseen one of the sport’s streakiest teams — the Yankees, at one point 41-41, then won 35 of their next 46 games — has mostly maintained the optimism characteristic of his four-year tenure as manager throughout the ups and downs, but offered some bluntness as well.

"We have the guys capable, but we’ve got to get it done," Boone said. "I mean, it's a little bit of a broken record this week, I understand that, but this is the group that we absolutely believe in, and we’ve got to get this thing turned around and I believe we will, but it's certainly been a frustrating several days for us on the offensive side."

This most recent stretch has made winning the AL East a long shot at best, as the Yankees trailed the Rays by 9 1/2 games with 23 to play entering Thursday. That made securing one of the wild-card spots — preferably the first one as it means hosting the lose-or-go-home game — the priority.

"It's still in our hands, and we have to be able to get past this and trust that what we're capable of doing is next," Boone said. "But I could sit here and talk about it, but talk becomes cheap. We have to go out and perform, and we're not doing it at a high enough level right now."

Boone said "absolutely" the attitude of the players is they will turn things around. Confidence is not an issue.

"I believe their confidence at their core, in believing that they're going to do something special, has never wavered, even in some of the darkest valleys that we've been in this year," Boone said. "I don't think that's the issue. It's an issue of we’ve got to get it done, though."

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