In must-win situation, Yankees respond

As Trade Deadline nears, all games have importance

In must-win situation, Yankees respond

NEW YORK -- Behind closed doors at Yankee Stadium, general manager Brian Cashman and his underlings have been working on a pair of divergent road maps for the next few weeks. One has the Yankees as buyers, the other as sellers, and the organization still has not determined which will see the light of day.

No one is about to shred the "sell" plan after Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Red Sox, but salvaging the series finale may have moved the needle slightly back from that direction. Manager Joe Girardi called the contest "probably as important a July game" as they've had in recent memory, and the players grasped that sense of urgency.

"It was good; a must-win for us," outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "Now we have Baltimore, who's playing good baseball also, so it's an important series. This homestand is important overall for us. I think this homestand will dictate what the future holds for a lot of guys here."

New York stumbled in the first two games out of the All-Star break, held to five runs and nine hits by Boston pitching in the pair of losses. The Yankees have been saying for weeks that they believe they are a better team on paper than they have shown, and Sunday's effort better represented their blueprint.

"Every game we play from now on is important," shortstop Didi Gregorius said. "We try to stay positive. We ended the first half against Cleveland going strong, so why not keep going that way? For us, today showed that we're fighting and not giving up. That's one thing that we've got to focus on now."

Tanaka takes charge, stymies Red Sox

Masahiro Tanaka held Boston to a run on three hits over six innings, handing off to the bullpen after 87 pitches. A three-run fourth inning off David Price was enough, as the power trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman shut the game down.

Tanaka's strong outing

"When you write up a win for us, this is exactly what you need," catcher Austin Romine said. "Some timely hitting, we've got a guy going five [or] six innings, and then get the big three coming out. We're going to win those games."

Had that happened more frequently in the first half, the Yankees might not be in a position where Beltran, Chapman, Nathan Eovaldi, Brett Gardner and Miller -- among others -- would be wondering if they'll be involved in the Yankees' first non-waiver Trade Deadline sell-off since 1989, when Rickey Henderson was sent back to the A's.

"Honestly, we don't think about it, because that's not the right mindset," Beltran said. "The mindset is just to go out and try to win ballgames and try to make it happen. We know that trades could happen, it's part of the business. I think at the end of the day, we have a responsibility as a team, and that's to try to go out there and win ballgames."

There are seven games remaining on the homestand, with the first-place Orioles coming to town for a four-game set that opens on Monday evening, to be followed by a weekend showdown with the Giants. Cashman said this weekend that he and the rest of the organization all agree to wait and see how those innings play out.

"We are all definitely in alignment in terms of what we're currently doing," Cashman told MLB Network Radio. "We're not in the sell mode. There's not a trade that's about to break. ... Nothing's going on. We're in the same boat we are now. We're waiting to see how we are over the next two weeks, and we're certainly looking to add if possible, but I'll also be prepared to deviate if directives are given that we should do so."

And so by the time the Yankees next board a charter jet, they trust that their course should be finally determined -- one way or the other.

"If you get caught up in thinking what's going to happen, where you're going to go, things like that, that's too much thinking in baseball," Beltran said. "So the right mindset is to just come to the ballpark, prepare yourself and go out there and try to perform."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.