Joe Girardi said his team is undeterred by the steep hill in front of it.
"That's the beauty of this game. You can go on runs in certain months, and if it's the right month, it can become the run that gets you into the postseason,'' Girardi said late Wednesday afternoon. "And that's what we need to do. We need to go on a really good run, and it needs to start tonight.''
One game down . . .
Whether Wednesday night's 5-1 victory over the Red Sox at the Stadium is the start of that kind of run remains to be seen, but it was, as Girardi said, a start.
"We needed one badly,'' he said. "We had lost three in a row and, as I said, this is a very important homestand and we need to win a lot of games.''
The Yankees (71-66) stayed 9½ games behind the first-place Orioles in the AL East but pulled within four games of the Tigers for the final wild-card spot.
Leading the way was catcher Brian McCann, who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the second inning, and Hiroki Kuroda.
The 39-year-old righthander, unlike in his first two seasons in the Bronx, has shown no signs of a second-half fade.
Kuroda (10-8, 3.78) allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out eight. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last four outings.
"Every game we play from now on is going to be a must-win game for us,'' said Kuroda, who entered the night 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break. "I just wanted to shift the momentum of our team.''
In 2012, Kuroda posted a 4.71 ERA in September, and he had a 5.70 ERA in last season's final month. To keep that from happening again, since the All-Star break the Yankees have given him a sixth day between starts when possible. It has paid off.
"Last year, he talked about getting a little bit fatigued, and we've done a lot of things to try and keep him from getting to that point,'' Girardi said. "He had a very good August, his September has started off well, and we need him to continue.''
Same goes for the offense, which again was erratic but, compared to what it's been for much of the season, was OK. Besides McCann's outburst, Brett Gardner went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Jacoby Ellsbury went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run.
The Yankees ran themselves out of a potential big inning in the first with a bit of slapstick baserunning. Derek Jeter (1-for-3, with a run) and Gardner, who didn't get a good jump from first, were thrown out on a double steal.
"Running into two outs, I wasn't real happy about,'' Girardi said, "but we made up for it and that mistake didn't cost us dearly.''
After Kuroda struck out the side in the second, McCann put the Yankees on the board with his 17th homer, a two-run shot on a 0-and-2 fastball into the second deck in right.
Boston's Anthony Ranaudo (3-1, 4.63) allowed three runs and six hits in 51/3 innings.
Ellsbury's sacrifice fly in the fifth made it 3-0 and, after the Red Sox (61-78) scored their lone run in the sixth, the Yankees made it 5-1 in the seventh on RBI singles by Gardner and McCann.
"It's just good to contribute,'' McCann said. "We're at that point of the season where we need to win as many games as possible.''
With Will Sammon