The MLB postseason begins in a few days and all three American League divisions are still to be decided.
If Bud Selig and Major League Baseball wanted to make the end of this season more exciting than last year, they are doing their job. Since the beginning of September, the Orioles have been no more than three games behind the first-place Yankees.
As of Sunday, the Yankees and Orioles are tied for first place with three games remaining in the season.
However, with the season winding down, the Yankees look like an afterthought to win the World Series. Over the past month, the Yankees have struggled with converting with runners in scoring position and their starters have given up more than their fair share of runs.
Because of their struggles in recent weeks, the Yankees enter the playoffs as underdogs; a position they are rarely in. Although, this may be the position they want to be in. Being the underdog allows them to fly under the radar and avoid the pressure the New York media brings.
The average age of the Yankees' starting fielders is 33.1 years. This is over five years more than the average age of the Baltimore Orioles, whose average is 27.88.
The average age of their starting rotation is 32.33 years. The returning Andy Pettitte does skew the average a little, but he has been 2-1 since returning from injury and is much-needed in the rotation.
The wear and tear of the long season has taken its toll on the Yankees. Brett Gardner, Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia (twice), Ivan Nova and Mark Teixeira have all spent time on the disabled list.
Granted, Pettitte's injury was a freak accident, but he was 6-3 before breaking his ankle and looked like he was 10 years younger.
Sabathia has two stints on the DL for a strained groin and inflammation in his left elbow. The Yankees took a huge hit with their ace in the rotation missing multiple starts.
We all know Derek Jeter, Ichiro and Rodriguez aren't as fast as they used to be. We'll keep an eye out if their speed, or lack thereof, will be the difference between sending the runner home from second and scoring a run or keeping them at third.
Surprisingly, these injuries haven't kept the Yankees out of playoff contention. However, it does beg the question—could they have had a bigger lead if everyone was healthy?
It's no secret that the Yankees have struggled all season with runners in scoring position, despite having the second-most runs scored this season.
According to teamrankings.com, the Yankees rank 16th out of 30 in runners left in scoring position per game with 3.54. This average is one-tenth more than their average last year.
Over the last three games, the Yankees have left an average of four runners in scoring position.
Breaking the 3.54 down, they only leave 3.14 runners on second or third at home, while they leave close to four on base on the road.
The Yankees are also in the top-10 in grounding into double plays with 133 on the year. The Orioles are in the lead with 152.
If the Yankees plan on winning their 28th World Series, they need to execute with runners in scoring position and not give the opposing team two quick outs.
The Yankees' starting rotation is 69-48. They were 82-46 a year ago.
C.C. Sabathia is the workhorse for the Yankees. That's a given. But in order for Sabathia to be effective, he needs to be the one who gives the bullpen a break by going the distance.
He went 19-8 and had a 3.00 ERA last year. Despite the two stints on the DL, he is 14-6 this year. His ERA is 3.42, however, his highest since joining the Yankees.
Ivan Nova seems to be a shell of what he was during his rookie season. He was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. In 2012, he's 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA. Nova has let up more than double his home run total from last year; 13 in 2011 compared to 28 this year.
Phil Hughes has been more of the same for Yankees fans. He's 16-13 with a 4.10 ERA. On Sunday, he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings. The Yankees were able to recover and eventually win the game.
In order for the Yankees to make a deep run in the playoffs, their starting pitchers need to reduce the amount of runs they give up. It seems simple, but they have had a hard time scoring enough runs to make up the deficit.
Despite all their troubles, you cannot count out the Yankees. The surge of Ichiro gives the Yankees another weapon not only in the field, but at the plate as well.
Pettitte's return to the rotation gives the Yankees a veteran presence who's been in this position before. The Yankees just need him, Nova and Sabathia to be the pitchers we know they can be.
The Yankees and Orioles clinched a playoff berth with an Angels loss on Sunday. These two teams will be battling it out until the end. The Yankees play a three-game series at home against the Red Sox while the Orioles travel to St. Petersburg to take on the Tampa Bay Rays.
With the A's, Rangers and Tigers most likely the other three teams in the postseason, the Yankees' road to No. 28 is going to be a tough one.
The A's are another surprise team to come from the bottom of the American League last year to make the playoffs this year. The Rangers and Tigers are not shockers to anyone with the way Cabrera and Hamilton are swinging their bats.
My predictions for the playoffs are Yankees/Rangers in the ALCS with the Rangers moving on to the World Series for the third straight year. In the National League, the Nationals and Red will be fighting in the NLCS. I predict the Reds will win in six games.
The World Series will be contested between the Reds and Rangers. As much as it stinks, the Rangers will lose their third straight series to the Reds in another great series.
These last few days will be as exciting as last year, if not better. Even with the football season four weeks old, baseball has still grabbed the attention of many sports fans.
Comment down below if you see the Yankees winning the series, or tell what your predictions are.