Over the first three days of a crucial series against the Boston Red Sox to round out last week, the New York Yankees seemingly did everything in their power to take themselves out of the American League wild-card race.
Three consecutive losses, all after scoring at least eight runs in each contest, were heartbreaking for the Bronx faithful. The blown save by Mariano Rivera on Thursday was bad enough, but blowing an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning on Friday night felt like the last nail in the 2013 Yankees' coffin.
However, thanks to a wild-card race that is struggling to find two teams willing to run away and hide, the New York Yankees enter Camden Yards on Monday to play one team they are looking up at in the wild-card hunt while also remaining two-and-a-half-games behind Tampa Bay for a postseason spot.
AL Wild Card race gets even tighter as #Rays fall in Seattle. TEX +3.0 TB – BAL 1.0 CLE 1.0 NYY 2.5 KC 3.5 Nothing like September.— MLB (@MLB) September 8, 2013
In other words, that is exactly how far they were out of the chase on Thursday, the day Boston entered New York for a four-game series.
The ledger and deficit may look the same, but New York's series loss to Boston hurt its postseason chances much, much more than it may read on the surface.
Check out those wild-card standings again, and you'll notice that New York sat directly behind Tampa on Thursday. Now? They've been leapfrogged by both Cleveland and Baltimore. A four-game set starting on Monday in Baltimore will give New York a chance to retake that position.
With Tampa going 3-7 in its last 10 games, the Yankees could have sat within just a half-game heading into this week if they had reversed course and taken three of four from Boston.
At 76-67, New York hasn't bury itself quite yet, but time is running out for a run in the Bronx.
At this rate, the Yankees could mathematically stay around two or three games out behind two or three teams until the last weekend of the season.
Obviously, when it comes to actually securing a postseason berth, that won't get them anywhere.
With 19 games remaining, time—along with having to leapfrog teams to catch Tampa—is New York's biggest obstacle.
If 90 wins are necessary to secure the second AL Wild Card, New York would need to reel off 14 wins in 19 games to put themselves at that number. If 91 wins is the benchmark for October, the Yankees would need to win 15 of 19 games.
Every loss to Boston, regardless of what it meant to the minute-by-minute updated standings, took away the margin for error from New York. At this point, losses aren't just setbacks, they are a handful of heartbeats left in a fading season.
The Yankees' 10-game homestand that featured Baltimore, Chicago and Boston needed to net at least seven wins for New York to go into Baltimore and Boston feeling confident and within true, not artificial, striking distance.
New York's ledger over its last 10 games is 6-4.
With a depleted bullpen, New York's only chance at a miraculous run will be on the backs of its starting pitching.
How many wins will it take to secure the second AL Wild Card?
They aren't dead, but the hourglass of the Yankees' 2013 season is running out quickly.
The benchmark for New York now is 14 or 15 wins over the next three weeks. If that number was 12 or 13, signified by a series victory over Boston, the Bronx would be a more relaxed place today.