The month of September has been a fight for the New York Yankees.
In years past, they would normally put the cruise control on and coast into a playoff spot.
They did it in 2011. They had the AL East all wrapped up with a lot of time left in the season, then they took their foot off the pedal, and during their last series, they allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to jump the Boston Red Sox for the wild-card spot.
In 2010, the Yankees didn't push the envelope in the final month of the season and ended up losing the division to the Rays, but by doing so, they drew the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, who they swept in three games.
Fast forward to 2012 and the Yankees are a mere 1.5 games up on the Baltimore Orioles, who simply will not go away in the AL East chase.
I thought the Orioles would falter in September, but Buck Showalter's group has not, going 15-7 in the final month through Tuesday night.
With the Orioles chasing the Yankees the entire way, it has made the Yankees play with a major sense of urgency, something you haven't seen the Yankees do in the last two Septembers.
I think that sense of urgency is going to end up helping them in their quest for the postseason.
Momentum plays a major factor heading into October, and last year's St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series but looked absolutely dead in the standings in early September, are a great example of that.
Were the Cardinals the best team that entered October? Probably not. But, they were the best team that played during the month of October, and by playing in a lot of must-win games to overtake the Atlanta Braves for the Wild Card, their momentum never stopped.
The Yankees aren't trailing a team like St. Louis was, but they have had to treat every game with a sense of urgency and every series as if it's a playoff series with the expectations of needing to win it.
Since the four-game series with the Orioles in which the Yankees earned a split at Camden Yards, the Yankees have won 10 out of their last 14 games and have won their last four series, which is why they have held on to their lead in the AL East.
If the Yankees continue their trend, there's a good chance that if they do reach the playoffs, they would have the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, which would give them home-field advantage against whomever they play in the ALDS.
Now, not every time the Yankees get home-field advantage helps them, as they had it against the Detroit Tigers last year and lost.
However, in the 2010 ALCS the Yankees did not have home-field advantage and lost the series to the Texas Rangers. I always wonder, if the Yankees had pursued the division a little harder and earned home-field advantage, would it have changed the outcome of that ALCS?
It's one of those things you always think "what if," which is why playing hard until the final game and going into October with momentum is very important.
Hopefully, because the Orioles' run has forced the Yankees to fight for every victory in September, that sense of urgency and the winning attitude will carry into October.
Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.
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