NEW YORK -- The last time the New York Yankees had an eight-game winning streak during any stretch of September, they were not in a daily fight for playoff positioning and were facing the typical pressure of trying to win a World Series title.
The Yankees won eight straight from Aug. 28-Sept 4, 2010 but the last eight-game winning streak with games played in September was Sept. 7-13, 2013. It turned a 1 1/2 game lead in the AL East into a 5 1/2 game edge and an eventual fifth straight division title.
A little over a month ago, nobody projected the Yankees to be talking about postseason possibilities let alone a possible division title, but New York is in the conversation for both.
New York can continue its run towards both things Sunday afternoon when it goes for an eighth straight win in the finale of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
"As I've said, everything is in front of us and it still is because we have so many games in our division," manager Joe Girardi said. "And it's the teams we're chasing. You try to win every day and see where you are every day and that's all we're trying to do. We're taking it day-by-day."
The latest installment of day-by-day was Saturday's 5-1 victory. Masahiro Tanaka struck out 10 in 7 1/3 outstanding innings for his sixth straight win while Jacoby Ellsbury and rookie Gary Sanchez homered off Chris Archer. Those actions helped the Yankees (76-65) get to within three games of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East and stay one game behind Baltimore for the second wild card spot.
On Aug. 2, the Yankees were 53-53 with five losses in six games. They were not completely out of the race but nobody was making postseason plans and management had sold off four veteran players.
Since then the Yankees have seem to become rejuvenated, winning 23 of 35 games. Since Aug. 2, the Yankees are hitting .268 (321-for-1200), and have averaged five runs per game and hit 53 home runs.
"The guys feel good about themselves. We've been playing really, really well," Girardi said. "We've been playing tough teams for a long time, and the focus is to win series and we've done a pretty good job of that. This homestand has started off great and we need it to continue. We're scoring runs and we're pitching well and the bullpen has been outstanding and it's a great combination.
The biggest infusion of youth has been Sanchez, who is hitting .344 with 13 home runs and 24 RBI.
"You never know what you're going to get when you get young players that come up here," Girardi said. "You're never sure how they're going to perform, how they're going to handle situations. But I got to give them a lot of credit and I got to give our organizational people a lot of credit because it seems like these kids are extremely prepared."
Luis Cessa started the third game of New York's winning streak and takes the mound Sunday for his fifth start. The Yankees have won his first four outings and Cessa has a 3.09 ERA in those games, including Tuesday's wild 7-6 victory over Toronto when he allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The Rays have dropped six-of-their-last-seven games and seven of nine in New York this season after Archer allowed the home runs while pitching decently for seven innings Saturday in his 18th loss before the Rays gave up a run on an intentional walk attempt.
"As far as the eighth inning is concerned, I'm not really going to talk about it other than to say it's embarrassing," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.
Tampa Bay has dropped its last six series at Yankee Stadium and are concluding its 14th four-game series in New York. The Rays only won two of those in 1999 and 2005 and were swept in five four-game series here with the last instance Sept. 7-9, 2009.
Matt Andriese starts for Tampa Bay and is 6-7 with a 4.58 ERA. Andriese and Chris Archer are the only two Rays with winning streaks of at least six games followed by losing streaks of at least six games within the same season.
Andriese is 0-7 with a 6.11 ERA in his last 15 outings (eight starts) and allowed seven runs and nine hits in five innings during a 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Monday.
He is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in four appearances against the Yankees. He allowed six runs and eight hits in five innings during an 8-4 loss at New York Aug. 13.