Ryan Howard mashed all of September; Manny Ramirez enters October with 24 career postseason homers. (AP)
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.
When the autumn weather turn leaves to flame,
One hasn't got time for the waiting game.
-- From "September Song" by Maxwell Anderson
Like the old song says, the days grow shorter in the ninth month, and this time they flew by in a September that was filled with so many memorable events.
September was a month of incredible playoff races that wouldn't be decided until two days after the regular season was scheduled to end, with a tiebreaker game between the Twins and White Sox.
We witnessed the emotional farewell of Yankee Stadium followed by a heartbreaking good-bye for fans at Shea Stadium despite the Mets being eliminated on the final regular season Sunday for the second consecutive year.
September gave us the Brewers' first playoff berth in 26 years and the Cubs' first no-hitter in decades -- against the Astros in a Houston home game played at Miller Park in Milwaukee!
The Cubs clinched a second consecutive NL Central crown and the Tampa Bay Rays made history by going from the worst record in baseball to the AL East crown.
September set the stage for what should be a memorable October.
Mr. September:Ryan Howard, Phillies. The big man came up big, belting a Major League-leading 11 homers and 32 RBIs in addition to his .352 batting average for the month. With Howard's booming bat leading the offense, the Phillies nailed down their second consecutive NL East title.
Cy September:Johan Santana, Mets. New York fell short of the playoffs but Santana certainly did his part. The two-time Cy Young Award winner went 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in the season's final month.
Sensational Septembers: Also stepping it up in September were Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers (.370, 8 HR, 28 RBIs), Albert Pujols of the Cardinals (.321, 8, 27), Adam LaRoche of the Pirates (.321, 7, 26), Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians (.400, 5, 24), Magglio Ordonez if the Tigers (.354, 5, 25), Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians (.414, 2, 22), Hank Blalock of the Rangers (.354, 7, 21) and Carlos Delgado of the Mets (.340, 8, 22).
Among the pitchers shining brightest in September were Roy Oswalt of the Astros (5-1, 1.42), Joe Smith of the Mets (4-0, 1.80), Jon Lester of the Red Sox (4-1, 2.14), Zack Greinke of the Royals (4-1, 2.18), Scott Lewis of the Indians (4-0, 2.63), Jesse Litsch of the Blue Jays (4-1, 2.18), Joakim Soria of the Royals (1-0, 0.00, 9-for-9 in save opportunities), Frankie Rodriguez of Angels (0-1, 0.90, 9-for-11), Francisco Cordero of the Reds (1-0, 1.64, 8-for-8) and Brad Lidge of the Phillies (0-0, 1.71, 8-for-8).
World Series (in September) winner: Los Angeles Dodgers. Knock the NL West all you want, but you can't find fault with what Joe Torre's team did, especially down the stretch. The Dodgers finished up with the best record (18-7), best team ERA (2.70) and best team on-base percentage (.374) in the Majors for the month of September.
September's Child: Tim Lincecum, Giants. The 24-year-old right-hander capped his Cy Young candidacy with a month that included 55 strikeouts and two complete games. Lincecum led the Major Leagues in strikeouts this year and over the past two years (58 games), he is 25-10 with a 3.16 ERA.
Who the heck? Scott Lewis is a name known to Ohio State fans, but the former Buckeye has been showing up on the national radar more often. Last year, Lewis, who turned 25 on Friday, had the best ERA in the Minor Leagues; this season, the Indians brought him up for a September look and the left-hander with the impressive curveball responded by going 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA.
September management: Ron Gardenhire, Twins. Gardenhire deserves recognition not only for the outstanding job he did this year and during the final crucial weeks of the season when the Twins were in a dogfight for the White Sox for the final playoff spot, but for what he's accomplished since he's become Twins manager. The Twins are perenially picked as also-rans and routinely outspent by the competition, yet year in, year out, they find a way to surprise the "experts" and for that Gardenhire deserves a share of the credit.
The injury bug: The dreaded bug's bite continues to impact some of the contenders heading into the playoffs, including Ben Sheets of the Brewers and Troy Percival and Carl Crawford of the Rays. The news on the injury front was better for the Dodgers, who welcomed back Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal and Takashi Saito from the disabled list during September.
September's magic moment: Sept. 21 was an emotional day at Yankee Stadium, as the daylong farewell to baseball's cathedral touched baseball fans around the world. It was as much a celebration as a good-bye, as Yankees young and old gathered to pay their last respects to the House that Ruth Built.
On the record: "We're relying on you to take the memories from this stadium and add them to the new memories that come to the new Yankee Stadium, and continue to pass them on from generation to generation. On behalf of this entire organization, we want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world." -- Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in an address to the fans following the final game at Yankee Stadium.
October pick to click:Manny Ramirez, Dodgers. Everything seems in place for Manny Mashing in October. Ramirez hit .370 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in September, and now he's got Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent back in the lineup around him. Last year he hit .348 with four homers and 16 RBIs in the postseason for Boston. Historically he ranks among the top three all-time in postseason homers (24) and RBIs (74). His while his career postseason average is only .260, he hit .350, .300, and .348 in his past three playoffs.
October pitch to click:CC Sabathia, Brewers. Sabathia's career record in the postseason is 1-2 with a 7.17 ERA in four starts, but odds are that won't continue. Sabathia has been sensational since the trade to Milwaukee and he had a 1.74 ERA with 54 strikeouts and only 10 walks in his last seven regular season starts. He's rolling and obviously due for a breakout October.
Rising nine: Look out for the Rays. They came out on top in one of the toughest divisions in baseball and held off a challenge from the defending World Series champions in the season's final weeks. The Rays have home-field advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs, pitching-wise they are arguably stronger and more rested than most of the other contenders, and they could get another boost if Carl Crawford is back to help their October campaign.
Growing up: The Brewers have had a roller-coaster season, with everything from injuries to key players like Ben Sheets and Yovanni Gallardo, the bullpen's struggles, the Manny Parra-Prince Fielder incident and manager Ned Yost's dismissal. So many times they seemed to be on the precipice, ready to fall out of the playoff picture, but they hung in there to earn the final NL playoff spot.
Out of nowhere: Carlos Zambrano was a concern. In four of five starts, the Cubs right-hander was 0-2 with a 12.23 ERA sandwiched around a Zambrano-esque outing (7.0 IP, 1 ER vs. the Reds). Theories abounded from tired arm to injury to tipping pitches, etc. And then Zambrano took the mound against Houston at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Sept. 14. Zambrano responded with a no-hitter, striking out 10 and walking one. Good-bye, concerns.
Our award winners: For AL MVP we'll go with Kevin Youkilis of Boston. In the NL, Ryan Howard of the Phillies gets the nod. For Cy Young in the AL it's Cleveland's Cliff Lee; in the NL, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Rookie of the Year selections are Evan Longoria of the Rays and Geovany Soto of the Cubs. Our Manager of the Year picks are Joe Maddon of the Rays and Joe Torre of the Dodgers.
World Series crystal ball: Angels over the Cubs in seven.
More Goodbye, Hello:
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.