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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Yankees’ 4-game streak gives them hope for postseason

Michael Pineda #35 of the New York Yankees

Michael Pineda #35 of the New York Yankees reacts after the final out of the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

This time, the Yankees pushed the boulder up the hill, and it did not roll back down on them.

Two games over .500!!!

For most of the past 20 years, that would have qualified as a Yankees milestone so modest as to be unworthy of mention, let alone celebration.

Not so this year, after they at last got it done Wednesday night, defeating the Orioles, 5-0, at Yankee Stadium to improve to 48-46, their first visit to the Two-Games-Over Club since . . . April 12!

That was so long ago the hockey and basketball seasons had two months left in them.

It was so long ago that Alex Rodriguez was an everyday player.

It was so long ago that Derek Jeter was a bachelor.

And the Yankees had to leave the country to make it happen. They beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, in Toronto that night after two days off, thanks in part to a snowout in Detroit. (Remember snow?)

Andrew Miller got the save, because Aroldis Chapman was busy being suspended at the time.

Then they lost seven of eight and descended into a quagmire of mediocrity that has had many fans, journalists and the broader commentariat calling for them to give up and start over before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

“It’s that two steps forward, three back, two forward, one back,” Girardi lamented before the game. “It’s frustrating, because you understand that .500 is not going to win your division.

“And you know that you have to get to five games, you have to get to 10 games and you have to start putting streaks together. So it has been frustrating, because we have been toying around it for a long time now.”

Now what? After four victories in a row — three against the Orioles, who entered Wednesday night in first place — the Yankees look like a potential, plausible postseason possibility.

So the plan is to keep winning.

“Honestly speaking, we’re not keeping up with how up we are or how down we are,” Carlos Beltran said. “Right now the mentality is we have to go out there and win ballgames. Two over .500, three over .500, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t beat the teams that are in your division.”

One sequence in particular stood out Wednesday night. Leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth, Michael Pineda loaded the bases with one out, then struck out two to end the threat.

In the bottom of the inning, the piano wire and Play-Doh keeping Mark Teixeira’s body intact held up well enough for him to hit a home run, boding well for his near future as a useful offensive piece.

The O’s again got a runner to third with one out in the sixth. Pineda again struck out the next two batters.

The Bombers now have allowed a total of three runs in their past four games.

Oh, and Beltran hit a home run to further whet the appetites of potential trading partners.

For those of us who revel in chaos — i.e. journalists — these developments are great fun as we approach the end of the month. Fans and members of the front office presumably are more conflicted than ever.

The players? They just keep playing. And the manager just keeps on managing.

“My focus is on the game,” Girardi said. “I can’t focus on the what-ifs. I only can focus on what we do on the field.”

That was before the game. After it, he said of the uphill climb, “You know with the situation looming that it’s very important as we move forward, and in a sense it’s playoff baseball for us.”

In other words: Keep rolling — in one direction.

New York Sports