Throughout their struggles in July and August, the Yankees continually insisted that they had a run in them.
Turns out they were right, it just came too late for it to mean all that much - barring a miracle.
After seemingly coming to terms with reality and shifting their attention from a playoff chase to a youth movement four weeks ago, the Yankees have posted the best record in baseball since Aug. 28 at 14-6.
They have taken advantage of a soft spot in the schedule, benefited from an injection of youthful energy and excelled at run prevention even with a beat-up pitching staff.
And so they entered their final homestand of the season Tuesday still mathematically alive for a postseason spot - 6 ? games back of the Rangers, who hosted the Red Sox on Monday night, with 12 games to play.
The Blue Jays, who were just ahead of the Rangers in the wild-card standings, will arrive in The Bronx on Tuesday for a three-game set that could have been a huge showdown with playoff implications.
Technically it still will - a sweep of the Blue Jays would keep the October pipe dream alive, at least temporarily, though the Yankees would still need a lot of help elsewhere to make that happen.
Of course, the series could also put another nail in the Yankees' coffin, too.
"You never know," manager Aaron Boone said Sunday before the Yankees missed a chance to sweep the Pirates. "Strange things happen, right? We just want to play well. We'll handle our business. If strange is in the cards, then great. But the biggest thing we want to do is control ourselves and hopefully continue to play really, really good baseball down the stretch. We'll look up and see where we are at the end."
In all likelihood, the Yankees will look up and see some combination of the Blue Jays, Rangers and Mariners claiming the final two wild cards.
The Yankees do have six games left against the Blue Jays, and Toronto's other six games are against the Rays.
But the Rangers and Mariners also face each other seven times, meaning one of those teams is going to keep winning, likely muddying the Yankees' miniscule chances even further.
"We're not out of it and we're going to keep fighting, especially with this group," Aaron Judge said. "Like they've shown this whole road trip, it doesn't matter if we're down to our last out, we still got a chance."
The Yankees unofficially waved the white flag on their season on Aug. 22, when they called up Everson Pereira and Oswald Peraza from Triple-A to begin focusing on their future instead of the playoff race that they had spiraled out of.
That night they lost their ninth straight game, falling 10 ? games back of the final AL wild-card spot.
The next day, general manager Brian Cashman called the season "a disaster," and by Aug. 27, they were a season-high six games under .500 and 11 games back of the last playoff spot.
In the next 20 games, though, the Yankees won more than they have in any 20-game span since they went 15-5 from May 2-May 23.
While their 14-6 stretch included a sweep of the Astros, the Yankees also feasted on 10 games against the lowly Tigers and Pirates plus four more against the Red Sox, whom they helped sink under .500.
But they have also been playing without the pressure that September in The Bronx usually brings.
"I think our mentality these recent weeks has been really good," said Clarke Schmidt, who will get the ball on Tuesday. "Just kind of having fun, going out there and competing.
"Obviously we're trying to go out there and win, but we're not sitting here paying attention to the standings every day and I think it's put us in a better place where we're just going out there trying to compete rather than looking over our shoulder every game."