Count yourself extremely fortunate, denizens of Yankee Universe.

Had your team not found a way to dig itself out of Mariano Rivera’s mess on Sunday night, you’d be suffering through a brutally painful Monday morning.

If Robbie Cano was unable to pad his MVP resume with a game-tying RBI single off Jonathan Papel-blown in the ninth; if Juan Miranda couldn’t heroically draw a bases-loaded walk off Hideki OkanIgobackto2007 in the 10th, your team’s little slump would have quickly transitioned to a national story.

People like Ian O’Connor would’ve written columns evoking memories of The Series That Shall Not Be Named (oh wait, he did anyway), WFAN listeners would be calling Mike Francesa from the Verrazzano Bridge, and ESPN would start covering the Red Sox‘s chase of the wild card with enough joy and wonder to make you think they may actually have a rooting interest.

Worst of all, you’d be on your couch Monday night counting on Allan James Burnett to keep this whole place from burning to the ground.

It would’ve been bad. Like, The Love Guru bad.

Regardless of the overwhelming odds in the Yankees‘ favor to make the playoffs, it’s hard to downplay the importance of Sunday’s win. You could see it in the players’ faces as they battled back against Papelbon in the ninth. (Quick aside: Is it just me, or does it seem like Papelbon blows every other save against the Yankees? I’m just sayin’ …).

Those dudes were pumped. Take Nick Swisher for example: Usually a smiling, gregarious scamp, Swisher had a Paul O’Neill-level look of ferocity after his single jump-started the rally.

Cuts to the dugout showed a similar look on each player’s face. They understood what would happen if they lost that game. It reminded me of an MLB Network special on the 1986 season I watched recently. It told the story of how, with two outs and the Mets needing two runs to keep the Red Sox from winning the title, Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, Ray Knight each singled then told first-base coach Bill Robinson, “I was not going to make the last f@#$ing out of this World Series.”

Not to compare this Yankees team to the ’86 Mets (there isn’t enough cocaine distributors left in Manhattan to make that comparison accurate anyway), but the Yankees’ rally on Sunday reminded me of that Mets team’s stubborn refusal to lose.

This is a good trait to have as the next phase of the season approaches.

Stray thoughts:

– Am I concerned about Rivera? No, but clearly he hasn’t been sharp of late. Don’t surprised if he flips a switch once October rolls around, though. Remember, he is … the G.O.A.T.

– Lost in the shuffle was another clutch homer by A-Rod, who may actually get to 30 homers after all. He seems to be getting his groove back at just the right time. We should find another fading female lead of the 2000-era to bring him “comfort” during the playoffs. Does anybody have Amanda Peet’s number?

– Awesome job, Phil Franchise. Easy cheese, my man. Easy cheese. See you in the bullpen?

– With a Rays loss, the Yanks are back with one-half game of the division lead. Still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or bad thing.

– You ever get vivid premonitions of an incensed Jon Miller beating broadcast partner Joe Morgan to death with a bowling pin, ala There Will Be Blood? Um, me either.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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