If the New York Yankees noticed they once trailed the Boston Red Sox by 7 1/2 games in the AL East, manager Aaron Boone did his best to conceal knowledge of the fact.
Yet that is how the divisional standings looked when the Yankees woke up April 22 with a 9-9 record.
Now those standings look significantly different and the Yankees get a chance to inch ahead of the Red Sox on Wednesday night in the middle contest of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Boone and the Yankees are having the kind of fun not seen since 1953. After Aaron Judge delivered a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning off Joe Kelly in Tuesday's 3-2 victory, the Yankees are 16-1 in their last 17 games and tied for first place.
It is the Yankees' best 17-game run since also going 16-1 from June 8-18, 1953. It started with a 9-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays when they began with a 7 1/2-game deficit on a day that ended with Boston getting no-hit in Oakland.
"That's kind of the extent I look at it," Boone said of being tied for first place in early May. "It's blinders on. We're playing good baseball, doing it in a lot of different ways.
"So, it's just nice that we're racking up some wins here, good to get off in this series on a good note and hopefully we can come and grab one tomorrow."
During this streak, the Yankees have outscored opponents 101-39 with 50 runs scoring in the seventh inning or later.
"We're doing our job," Judge said.
Since holding its 7 1/2 game lead on the Yankees, Boston has split its last 16 games after a 17-2 start, though Mookie Betts continues to be productive. Betts had two hits Tuesday and 14 of his last 18 hits are for extra bases, and he had eight RBIs in the first four meetings with the Yankees.
Despite playing .500 ball for the last two weeks, the Red Sox are off to their best start since 2002. They also are hardly concerned about the standings with 15 meetings against the Yankees remaining.
"It's another series," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before the series opener. "Our goal is to win the series and we move on. They probably feel the same way. It's awesome that the baseball world is watching. We have the two best records in baseball but at the end of the day, it's another series."
The Red Sox will try to get their offense going against Masahiro Tanaka, who is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three starts.
Tanaka (4-2, 4.39 ERA) last pitched Thursday afternoon when he allowed three runs and five hits in six-plus innings during a no-decision in New York's 6-5 victory at Houston.
Tanaka is 8-4 with a 4.04 ERA in 15 career starts against the Red Sox. He last faced Boston April 10 at Fenway Park when he allowed six runs on seven hits in five innings during a 10-7 victory.
Boston's hitters own mixed results against Tanaka, but one who has had good experiences is J.D. Martinez. Martinez hit two of his three career homers off Tanaka on June 21, 2015, for Detroit and is 7-for-12 in their matchups.
David Price was originally slated to start for the Red Sox but was scratched after experiencing numbness in his hand during his bullpen session after allowing nine runs in 3 2/3 innings Thursday in Texas.
"As soon as I heard what was going on, I think we're better off for him to see what's going on, doing more testing, and going from there, making a decision," Cora said. "I'm not saying that he will miss the next start or that there's a DL situation here, but obviously we want to make sure what's going on."
Instead, Rick Porcello will start and attempt to remain unbeaten. Porcello is 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA and was originally slated to start Thursday.
Porcello last pitched in Friday's 5-1 victory at Texas when he allowed one run and three hits in six innings. Porcello has won his last seven decisions since Sept. 10.
Porcello beat the Yankees April 12 at Fenway Park when he allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings of a 6-3 win while throwing 33 two-seam fastballs and 32 sliders.
The right-hander is 9-8 with a 3.09 ERA in 19 career starts against the Yankees. Since joining the Red Sox in 2015, he is 6-5 with a 2.44 ERA 10 starts against New York.
While Brett Gardner is hitting .294 off Porcello, Didi Gregorius is 5-for-26, Judge is 2-for-13 and Gary Sanchez is 1-for-11.