Nary a soul would have until recently, however, thought that six-season games against the Boston Red Sox would be included in the relevance column, given the widespread assumption that the Nemeses of the Yankees would drain away with the American League East title.
In just eight days, however, a lot has changed. And the Yankees can suddenly dare to dream that their October Glory ticket does not necessarily have to go through the wildcard game.
Thanks to a 15: 5 leg in August, when the Red Sox encounter not just one but two strikes after a game in 127 games, the Yankees have regained some control over their fate  Having finished the Baltimore Orioles for four laps with a 5: 3 victory on Sunday night in Camden, they are only six games behind the Red Sox, the next in Boston since August 1st.
That was nearing its low, a four-game round of Boston at Fenway Park that included demoralizing flaws and soul-rending walk-offs and an apparent coronation of the Red Sox.
now? Well, the Yankees know that the odds are still against them to play six at 32.
You also start to feel a little bit.
"This team has the second-best record in baseball, we're up to 100 for speed," said helper Zach Britton, after retracting all five batters he faced. "This team is very well able to compete with Boston, so if they hit the bullseye and we continue to play well, we can catch them."
In fact, the Yankees are in a 103-win pace, good enough to win almost every division in every season except for that AL East.
On August 18, they were out of 10 1/2 games.
But the Red Sox finally suffered their first three-game losing streak, which stretched from Sunday to Tuesday. After winning a pair from the Cleveland Indians in Fenway, they were swept in Tampa Bay while the Yankees four, including a make-up game, won against the 37-94 Orioles.
Suddenly, an item in her windscreen looks a bit bigger, though manager Aaron Boone insists on keeping his hands on the wheel at 10 and 2.
"We have nothing to say about what they do for 2000 miles," Boone said before Sunday's game. "It's nice to lose, I like that, but I'm so busy making sure our ship is going in the right direction, that we're playing well."
That's you. Sunday, starter Luis Severino earned his Major League-best 17th victory, eight Orioles roamed thanks to a fastball Boone called "Electro" and the "best he had." All night it had this life. "
Severino's biggest jam came in the third inning when Baltimore loaded the bases and Severino fell with two balls behind Jones. Do not worry: he dialed it up 99 mph, 98 and then 99 to finish the frame with a soft fly to the right field.
Meanwhile, third baseman Miguel Andujar remained among the hottest thugs in AL and drove in two runs with three strokes; He beats .357 since the All-Star break.
Luke Voit, an afterthought on July 29, hit a two-run homer, his third in the series, as he plans to replace Greg Bird as a regular first baseman.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez should be back next week; Slugger Aaron Judge and closer Aroldis Chapman's return dates are less certain.
The Red Sox and the Yankees have similar schedules: everyone still has three games with the Orioles and dates with the Blue Jays. The Yankees will be confronted by the A & # 39; s and Mariners by the Red Sox with the Braves and Astros.
One key: Boston is done with the Rays, while the Yankees' last journey to Boston is preceded by four games at Tropicana Field, where they are only 1-5 this season.
Hey, at least this data is worth highlighting on the calendar.
"If we play well, we will be able to win many victories," says Boone, "and we'll see where we land."
They already have. If you continue, a memorable September will be one to remember.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Gabe Lacques on Twitter @GabeLacques .
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