CLEVELAND – A rational approach is Derek Jeter’s only route, so the Yankees’ captain was predictably calm during a tempestuous Wednesday in the Windy City.

“You don’t pay attention usually until September,” Jeter said of the Yankees’ fast-fading AL East lead. “If you win your games, you’ll be fine.”

That was Jeter’s sermon on a night when the White Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees, capped by Joe Girardi shouting down a loud fan who made a rude comment during the manager’s postgame press conference.

Earlier in the day, Jeter had to swat down a TV commentator’s suggestions that a season worthy of MVP recognition ought to come under scrutiny in this era of HGH.

“You can say whatever you want now, huh? There’s no repercussions,” Jeter said before swatting his third homer in three games.

But the captain’s continuing high performance couldn’t prevent the Yankees from seeing what had been a 10-game lead on July 18 shrink to 2 1/2 games.

Based on the talent in the division, “We probably didn’t deserve to have a 10-game lead,” Mark Teixeira said after Chicago’s Chris Sale struck out 13 Yankees on Wednesday, a 2-1 White Sox win. “This is probably where we’re supposed to be.”

The Yankees (72-52) have six games left with the second-place Rays and seven with the third-place Orioles, though Jeter’s calendar hasn’t moved any further ahead than this weekend’s series against the faded Indians. “I’m not running from here celebrating anything,” Jeter said flatly.

Boosted by Monday’s four-hit game, Jeter passed Eddie Murray for sole possession of 11th place on baseball’s all-time hits list — now with 3,257.

Talk of his inclusion on MVP ballots doesn’t interest him and any discussion about evaluating his season is promptly shut down.

“It’s not over,” Jeter said. “You know me. We’re trying to win games — that’s the only thing I’m thinking about. Those other things don’t enter into my mind.”

Well, sometimes the solid statistics that Jeter is putting up at age 38 can be used to highlight a point.

“One time I hit .270 and it was like it was the end of my career,” Jeter said of his 2010 season.

“I’ve had more than one (dissatisfying season). I know that one has gotten a lot of attention, but you still have to have confidence you can play.”