The finish line is in sight and the path looks mostly clear, though there are still some roadblocks and obstacles for the New York Yankees to overcome in order to win the American League East.
Seven games remain for the Yankees, and all of them will be against familiar foes within the division who are begging for the season to mercifully end. The Bombers make their final trip north of the border to take on Toronto for four games, and then close the season out in the Bronx next week against the miserable Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees are 15-9 this month and have stepped up when the pressure has gotten tighter. That pressure has come from the Baltimore Orioles, who have played lights-out baseball over most of the second-half of the season.
What's evident right now is the Yankees' experience and confidence in persevering through so many tests, injuries and losing stretches, and still standing tall atop the division. In fact, the Yankees have not relinquished their lead in first place for the entire second half.
Unbelievably, after the Yankees' victory on Monday night in Minnesota, the Bombers finally had a lead in the division greater than one game for the first time in three weeks. Here's some historical perspective:
According to STATS research, the 21-day stretch during which the Yankees and Orioles were separated by one game or less was the second longest in Major League Baseball history, the most days since 1897.
How's that for hanging tough in the middle of a division and pennant race?
That toughness, grit and unwillingness to give up is why the New York Yankees are still the most feared team in baseball. The Bombers may not have the best pitching rotation, and at times it appears their lineup has more holes than Dunkin' Donuts.
But the idea of going into the Bronx to a raucous Yankee Stadium in October to take a series from the team with the best home record in baseball is not a task that any opposing team wants. Particularly not with the Yankees playing so well in the month of September.
The Yankees are also nearly in a statistical dead-heat for the best home record in Major League Baseball. They know how to defend their home turf and take advantage of the short porch in right field with their lefty-laden lineup.
Lately, it's been the Bombers' ability to hit all kinds of pitchers. Balance across the lineup, thanks to the hot hitting of Ichiro, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin, have helped to right the ship. The return of Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia's dominant left arm have helped as well.
The baseball season is a long one and seven games still remain. Seven games for the Yankees to continue building on a hot month of September and enter the Playoffs ready for any challenger. Here are 5 keys for the Yankees to have momentum on their side.