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BOSTON — Brett Gardner is in the middle of another playoff run and he said he doesn’t know if it will be his last.
“I try not to get too far ahead of myself and worry about next week, next month or next year,” Gardner said before the Yankees opened a key series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night. “Nothing beyond this weekend and the Red Sox. I know it sounds silly, but I try to keep things as simple as possible. We all have a job to do and the more I focus on this and what’s going on here, the better I can be.”
The 38-year-old Gardner has been a much more important part of the Yankees lineup than anticipated when he signed up again shortly before spring training on a one-year deal that included a player option for next season at $2.3 million.
Asked if what happens over the next nine games — or beyond — might impact his decision regarding his future, Gardner paused.
“I don’t know,’’ Gardner said. “A lot of things could happen over the next few weeks. Hopefully in a week or so, we’re getting started on a deep playoff run.”
They’ll have their work cut out for them to make that a reality.
While they entered Friday two games back of Boston for the top wild-card spot in the American League and a game ahead of Toronto for the second spot, the series against the Red Sox started a daunting final stretch for the Yankees, with series against Boston, whom they were 6-10 against prior to Friday, followed by three games in Toronto, against which the Yankees also were 6-10 and finally three games versus the first-place Rays in The Bronx.
Despite the daunting schedule — which is decidedly tougher, at least on paper, than Boston’s or Toronto’s — Gardner said he remained confident the Yankees would get to where they wanted to go.
“I do like our chances,’’ Gardner said. “I like the team we have. We’ve obviously played some frustrating baseball this season, but the opportunity is there for us to play well this last week and a half and make the postseason playing good baseball. Once that happens, anything can happen.”
If nothing else, the Yankees have proven to be the streakiest team in the sport, getting off to an ugly start to the season and battling mediocrity midway through the year.
A second-half surge propelled the Yankees back into the postseason conversation and a 13-game winning streak gave them a chance to secure a playoff spot and perhaps make a run at Tampa Bay for the AL East title.
But that stretch of success was almost completely undone by a 2-11 skid that immediately followed.
They’ve recovered a bit and heading into the Boston series had won eight of 12, which moved them back ahead of the Blue Jays in the playoff picture.
Friday night started their most intense part of the schedule and as Gardner, manager Aaron Boone and plenty of Yankees have pointed out, this is what will define their season.
“This is why we play,’’ Gardner said. “I wish we were in a little better place in the standings than we are right now, but we’ve still got a really good opportunity in front of us.”
And just as he has for most of the year, Gardner figures to be in the middle of it.