When the New York Yankees kick off a three-game set with the Seattle Mariners tonight, they will effectively put their season on the line.

One three-word phrase applies to the New York Yankees as they commence a pivotal series at Safeco Field: now or never.

Two promising wins in Los Angeles set the stage for an outstanding, uplifting, and ground-gaining weekend, but, in typical 2016 Yankees fashion, the final game was squandered.

Oh, so close … yet so far away. That commonly used expression can be attributed to the entirety of a rollercoaster year.

One that has witnessed a first half dependence on 39-year-old Carlos Beltran and a star-studded bullpen. The eventual unleashing of those said pieces to create arguably the best farm system in the game. The end of a controversial and storybook career. Ultimately, an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality which has yielded more success and relevancy than the first half let on.

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Yes, a lot has gone on in the Bronx. Perhaps far too much to handle in one slate of 162 games over a six-month portion of the calendar.

That quite possibly can provide a too little, too late scenario for the Bombers, burying themselves based on first half miscues and pure sideshow.

An imminent three-game set on the opposite side of the country will bring about an identity and likely a fate.

Contenders or pretenders? A full-fledged buy-in mentality or an outcome-irrelevant tryout stage? Sheer optimism or cautious faith?

Is a club 11-8 (.579) since the trade deadline an accurate representation of that rate (94 wins)?

These questions will likely be put to rest.

Since that fateful August 1 date, the Yanks, in showcasing extremely talented young guns, have pulled to within 6.5 games of the division crown, four games of a playoff spot, and game and a half of every team standing between them and the Mariners, the team closest — one game deficit — to dethroning the Baltimore Orioles of the second wild card slot.

Currently, three games separate the Yankees and the Mariners, indicative of just how large the series essentially is. If the M’s handle them, the wild card playoff avenue will become a pipe dream. Conversely, if the Yankees shine in Seattle, they will be breathing down everyone’s respective necks.

Yet, Joe Girardi’s team is 0-4 in games which would propel them to five games over .500, a mark that can fortify odds moving forward.

Now is the time.

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Are Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, both off to sensational starts, capable of being catalysts in a playoff chase, particularly at this stage of youth? Are Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren, who have made the subtractions of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller worthless, competent enough to bridge the gap in meaningful contests?

Most importantly, will Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia have the poise to — at the very least — split the first two games and hand Masahiro Tanaka the ball in a rubber game?

The factors which have sprung the Yanks into playoff contention will be tested time and time again at Safeco Field.

Following the clash in the Emerald City, the team will have merely 36 games remaining on the 2016 schedule. 30 of those games are against AL East opponents.

Yes, you read that right. 30.

As funny as it sounds, destiny will be in their hands. With that said, the outcome of three impactful games can be the difference when push comes to shove.

Will the nine remaining duels with the Orioles come with a true striking chance? Handling Seattle can check three teams off the uphill climb, making Baltimore the only team to triumph.

Fittingly enough, the regular season concludes in the Bronx against who other than Buck Showalter’s squad. Timely enough, a Yanks-O’s Yankee Stadium battle is on tap for this weekend.

Sure, time is still on New York’s side. Definitely, the deficit is surmountable in the truest sense of the word.

The rest is in the hands of the pinstripes. Between now and October 2, the verdict on the potential of a 41st pennant will be released.

Tonight, the real fight begins.

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