9/21/2013 3:15 A.M. ET
One a lonely number for playoff-hungry Yankees
Bombers taking each day as it comes, but know any loss could knock them out
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- There's no math that works in their favor, so the Yankees are taking a simple approach.
"You've got to think one game at a time," Alex Rodriguez said.
You've heard that one before, right? This time, it makes sense. Actually, it's about the only hope the Yankees have. They've got eight games remaining. By their own count, they need to win, oh, eight of them.
"I don't know if we can afford to lose any more games," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the bottom line at this point. I kind of look at every game from here on out as extremely important."
Can they do it? Better yet, do they think they can do it? That's where everything starts, right?
"Of course," CC Sabathia said. "Why couldn't we? Anything can happen. We've got the guys in here."
The Yankees will be the first to tell you they dug their own hole. They returned home Friday night after losing five of six in Boston and Toronto. In the final five games, they scored nine runs.
So they're desperate.
"It's hard to think eight or nine games out," Rodriguez said. "Hopefully a game like that tonight can get us going on a good streak."
Rodriguez's 24th career grand slam had just propelled the Yankees to a 5-1 victory over the Giants. For a team that defines success as winning championships, it was a game without the usual thunderous late-season atmosphere.
There were a large contingent of Giants fans watching their team play in new Yankee Stadium for the first time. Their team has known for weeks that it wouldn't be going back to the playoffs.
But the Yankees still have a glimmer -- and it's not much more than that -- of hope. At the moment, there are six American League teams within four games of each other in the loss column in the fight for the two Wild Card berths.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they've got the most losses (73), which means they've got four teams to pass and three games to make up to grab the second AL Wild Card berth.
The Rays have 69 losses. The Indians and Rangers have 70, the Orioles and Royals 72 and the Yankees 73.
The Rays and Yankees have a three-game series at Yankee Stadium beginning Tuesday. If the Yankees are able to run the table, they may have taken care of the Rays.
If they don't take care of business against Tampa Bay, they didn't deserve to be in the playoffs anyway.
And then, as the Yankees said on Friday, you can drive yourself crazy with those numbers games.
The Yankees just have to play 'em one at a time and see what happens. Asked about playing with a sense of urgency, Sabathia said, "One hundred percent. I think everybody in here feels that. It's time to go. I mean, we need to try to win out."
There are all sorts of strange dynamics at play this weekend. Andy Pettitte announced before the game that this season would be his last. Mariano Rivera, also retiring, is being honored before Sunday's game.
Derek Jeter played just 17 games this season, and even though he'd like to return for a 20th year, there's no way of knowing how much productive baseball he still has in him.
While an era is ending, hope lives. With all that age on the roster and with all those injuries, the Yankees are trying to avoid missing the playoffs for just the second time since 1995.
They took care of business against the Giants by getting seven solid innings from Sabathia and then breaking up a tie game with four runs in the seventh. It was just one, but it was one they needed.
"That's baseball," Rodriguez said. "One swing can turn a lot of things around."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.