BOSTON — Cy Young winner Rick Porcello may be turning it around just when this Boston Red Sox rotation needs a lift.

Jackie Bradley Jr. showed he could be the best No. 9 hitter in the game.

And the Red Sox lead the New York Yankees by five games in the AL East standings, following Boston’s 5-1 win Sunday afternoon.

Comfortable?

“We would much rather be in this position than be five games back. That’s for sure,” Porcello said. “Everyone knows there is a lot of baseball to be played, especially in this division. No lead is big enough.”

If you think Porcello is playing the cliche game, he knows something about this only being August on the baseball calendar.

“I’ve been on a team where we had a six-game lead going into September and it didn’t work out,” Porcello said.

That was the 2009 Detroit Tigers in Porcello’s rookie season. The lead became seven games on Sept. 8, but Detroit collapsed and then lost a one-game playoff to Minnesota in 12 innings.

So, what’s a five-game lead on Aug. 21?

Yankees veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said his team was still in “striking distance,” noting that a five-game deficit could be gone within two weeks.

The Red Sox visit Yankee Stadium the weekend after next for a four-game series.

New York did not feel overwhelmed by Boston the last two weekends – each series won by the Red Sox, 2-1.

“We probably had a chance to win four of the six (games) and we won two of the six, so that’s frustrating,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said in his postgame press conference.

“But I still think we’re playing pretty decent baseball and we need that to continue.”

The Yankees have Monday off and then visit the struggling Tigers. New York gets starter Masahiro Tanaka back from the disabled list Tuesday. Other reinforcements are expected to arrive soon from the disabled list – designated hitter Matt Holliday, first baseman Greg Bird and second baseman Starlin Castro.

This could be a dangerous New York team in September.

Boston Manager John Farrell, in his postgame press conference, was asked about the upcoming series against Cleveland – a team Boston might see in the playoffs for a second straight year.

“We’re not thinking about the playoffs,” Farrell said. “We’re not thinking about what transpired a year ago.

“We’re in a stretch of games for the better part of a month where the schedule is tough. Our guys are handling that challenge great, but we know we’re going in to play a very good team in Cleveland.”

The Red Sox are sizzling, with 12 wins in 15 games. They also have players on the DL, with David Price out indefinitely and Dustin Pedroia possibly a week or two away. But they keep winning.

“We definitely feel like we’ve been trending in the right direction,” Bradley said.

Bradley certainly is. Not only was he 5 for 10 with six RBI in the three-game series, but he’s batting .600 this month (9 for 15) with runners in scoring position.

“He’s in a good place,” Farrell said. “We’ve talked about his streakiness in the past. He’s on the good side of one of those right now.”

Speaking of a good place, Porcello (8-14) has won his last four starts. And in his last eight starts, he has a 3.38 ERA.

“His location remains consistent. That’s the biggest key for Rick,” Farrell said.

Porcello’s reemergence comes at a time when Price appears like he might be done for the season. His left elbow is still sore, and Farrell said his return “can’t really begin to get attached to a date.”

But the team has Chris Sale, Porcello, Drew Pomeranz (who the team hopes won’t miss a start after leaving Friday’s game because of back spasms) and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez goes Monday night in Cleveland. It’s another big series.

Just don’t start thinking too far ahead, Red Sox fans. Remember those 2009 Tigers.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases