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A September to Remember...or Forget?

The road to the postseason features many stiff tests for the Yankees
08/27/2012 11:27 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Evan Longoria and the Rays will face the Yankees six times in the final six weeks.(AP)
With 35 games remaining on their schedule, the Yankees enter Monday leading the AL East by four games over Tampa Bay, and their 74-53 record has them just one game behind Texas for the No. 1 seed in the American League.

That’s the good news.

The “bad” news, per se, is that if the Yankees are indeed to head into October and the 2012 postseason as AL East Champions, they will, as the cliché goes, have to do it the hard way.

Beginning with Monday night’s game against the Blue Jays, the Yankees play their next 22 games (and 29 of their final 35) against the AL East, including six with the Rays and seven with Baltimore, who are themselves just a half-game behind Tampa Bay in the division.

Add in 10 total games with those wounded but still dangerous Jays and a half-dozen with a Boston team that seems resigned to play spoiler (and would love nothing more than to do it against their heated rivals, especially in the season’s final series at Yankee Stadium Oct. 1-3), and the Yankees will arrive at whatever their destination is on October 4 as a battle-tested team.

The non-East games are no easy task, either, as the Bombers have a Sept. 21-23 series at Yankee Stadium against the Oakland Athletics – who, at 69-57, enter Monday tied with Baltimore for the second AL Wild Card spot – and then from Sept. 24-26 must play three in Minnesota (which may not have the most optimal climate by then) to start their final road swing of the season.

On paper, sure, the schedule won’t be easy for Baltimore or the Rays, either; they play each other in the season’s final series, and their overall slates – the O’s have series at Chicago, Oakland, and Seattle on their non-East docket, while the Rays have four of their own with the White Sox and a home-and-home battle with Texas – are basically similar to New York’s but look tougher in theory.

But, as John Sterling often says, you can’t predict baseball. After losing five of their previous seven from August 16-22, the Yankees look like they’ve gotten back on track after winning two of three (and getting three quality starts) against Cleveland over the weekend, and they hope to continue that roll against a Blue Jays team that is missing two of its biggest hitters in Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista.

Between now and October 4, the world will learn a lot about the Yankees and their battle-toughness…but will that knowledge come with another AL East crown, a ticket to a one-game Wild Card showdown, or a date with TBS, MLB Network, and FOX’s television coverage of the postseason?

Only the rest of the AL East knows.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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