Although the New York Yankees are in the midst of a disappointing stretch, they still own the largest division lead in baseball.
The Baltimore Orioles ' recent struggles are a big reason why.
The Yankees and Orioles hope to climb out of their funks when they open a three-game series Monday night in the Bronx.
When New York (60-41) and Baltimore (53-49) last met for two games May 15-16, the Yankees left Camden Yards 2 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay and the Orioles, who were tied atop the AL East. New York has since opened a 7 1/2-game advantage over those clubs.
That lead was at 10 on July 18, but the Yankees have lost seven of 10. They suffered a 3-2, 10-inning defeat to Boston on Sunday, dropping the final two games against their archrivals.
The Orioles haven't been much better, going 2-5 over the last week as they've been plagued by an inconsistent offense. They've scored 21 runs in three of those games but one in each of the other four.
Baltimore arrives in New York after beating Oakland 6-1 on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep, and Matt Wieters appears to have found his stroke.
Wieters, who had sat out the previous two games with a sore right biceps, hit a three-run homer after entering the finale mired in a 1-for-30 slump. The All-Star catcher should be looking forward to this series given that he is batting .467 with two homers and three doubles against the Yankees this year. He is also 2 for 3 this season against scheduled starter Freddy Garcia (4-4, 5.16 ERA).
Despite Wieters' best efforts, the Yankees are 5-3 in the season series.
Curtis Granderson has played a role in that success, hitting four homers while driving in seven runs and scoring seven times. The three-time All-Star center fielder could have a couple of new faces on either side of him in the opener.
Nick Swisher returned to the lineup Sunday as the designated hitter after not starting for seven straight games due to a strained left hip flexor. He could be back at his normal right field position Monday, meaning Ichiro Suzuki will shift to left for the first time in his major league career.
Swisher went 2 for 4 on Sunday, but the rest of his teammates combined for five hits.
"We didn't really have a lot of opportunities," manager Joe Girardi said.
It's possible the Yankees could have some more chances against Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 4.28), who is looking to rebound from an awful showing.
After going 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in his first three starts, Gonzalez was knocked around for seven runs and seven hits - two homers - in 2 2-3 innings of a 10-1 loss to the Rays on Wednesday. The rookie right-hander walked two, hit three batters and threw a wild pitch.
"Obviously whatever happened didn't work out for me," he told the Orioles' official website. "I just want to forget about (the) game."
Garcia is hoping to build on another encouraging outing after giving up three runs and five hits over 7 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 4-2 loss at Seattle. The right-hander, who struck out a season-high eight and retired the final 15 batters he faced, has a 3.90 ERA in five starts since returning to the rotation.
In his lone start of the season against Baltimore on April 10, he allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-4, 12-inning victory. The Yankees have won all five of his starts versus the Orioles since 2011.
|July 16, 2012||Robert Andino||15-Day DL||Left shoulder subluxation|
|July 16, 2012||Robert Andino||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder strain|
|July 14, 2012||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Arthroscopic surgery, right knee|
|July 02, 2012||Brian Roberts||15-Day DL||Torn muscle, right hip|
|June 28, 2012||Nick Johnson||60-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
|June 27, 2012||Nick Johnson||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|New York Yankees|
|July 25, 2012||Alex Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Non-displaced fracture in left hand|
|July 25, 2012||Nick Swisher||Day-to-Day||Strained left hip flexor|
|July 24, 2012||Alex Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Left hand fracture|
|June 28, 2012||Andy Pettitte||60-Day DL||Fractured left ankle - out 6-8 weeks|
|June 27, 2012||Andy Pettitte||Day-to-Day||Fractured left ankle - out 6-8 weeks|
|June 25, 2012||CC Sabathia||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Miguel Gonzalez has quickly gone from an unwanted minor leaguer with a surgically-repaired right elbow to one of the best arms in the Baltimore Orioles ' rotation.
Gonzalez pitched solidly into the seventh inning in his fifth big league start, leading the Orioles to a 5-4 victory over the slumping New York Yankees on Monday night.
"This is not his first good outing here," manager Buck Showalter said. "I think he's given us pretty good outings consistently."
Gonzalez (3-2) cruised through 6 2-3 innings, giving up just four hits and two runs, before he was chased by consecutive homers from Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki - his 100th career home run - that made it 5-4.
He missed all of 2009 because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. And after going winless in the minors last year, Gonzalez went unsigned until late February when the Orioles gave him a chance. He made his major league debut May 29 and his first start July 6.
Other than a horrid start Wednesday when he gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings while not feeling well, Gonzalez has kept Baltimore competitive in each of his starts. He pitched into at least the sixth in his three other outings, going a high of seven.
After all he's been through, could he believe he was pitching in an important division game in the ballpark in the Bronx?
"No," Gonzalez said with a smile. "I was happy to be here and real happy to play at Yankee Stadium and play in front of that crowd. It was a great experience."
Suzuki had a chance to tie it with two runners on in the ninth against Orioles closer Jim Johnson but grounded into a fielder's choice.
Darren O'Day relieved Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Russell Martin gave his second pitch a ride to the warning track in straightaway center field for the third out. Derek Jeter led off the eighth with a hit off the glove of reliever Pedro Strop , but the Yankees failed to score.
Strop did not have to face Mark Teixeira , though. The Yankees first baseman was lifted before the eighth after he appeared to injure his left wrist while trying to make a diving play on J.J. Hardy's sharp grounder that went through for an RBI single and a 5-2 lead.
Teixeira said he hurt the wrist in his third at-bat against Boston on Sunday. Still, he felt as if he could play. Then he tweaked it in the field.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said X-rays on the wrist were negative but Teixeira will have further tests Tuesday.
"I've had a little thing in my wrist before, back in 2009. Hopefully it will just get better in a few days," Teixeira said. "You're always playing through something."
Johnson gave up a leadoff double to Nick Swisher in the ninth. With one out, Chavez walked. Suzuki walked to the plate to chants of "Ee-Chi-ro!" He grounded to shortstop but, still speedy at 38 years old, he beat the relay throw from second to put runners on first and third for Martin. Johnson struck him out for his 31st save.
Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Wilson Betemit homered in the third off Freddy Garcia (4-5) for Baltimore, which has had trouble scoring of late. The Orioles cut New York's lead in the AL East to 6 1/2 games despite winning for just the third time in eight games. The Yankees have lost eight of 11 after opening a 10-game advantage.
"We know where we stand, who we're up against," Markakis said. "We just got to take it day by day."
Baltimore hasn't been to the playoffs since 1997 and with the trade deadline looming Tuesday afternoon is thought to be in the market for a starter to shore up the rotation.
Gonzalez could help offer stability to a staff that has had nine pitchers start games this season. He struck out a career-high eight without walking a batter but is having trouble with the long ball, giving up three Monday and nine in five starts.
"The kid did a nice job tonight," Girardi said. "He was successful with his changeup when he was behind in the count, and he was successful expanding the zone when he was ahead of the count"
Raul Ibanez had New York's other homer with a leadoff shot in the fifth. Suzuki's drive was his first with New York and he was greeted with a warm reception from fans sitting in right field when he took his position for the eighth.
Garcia tied a season high by allowing nine hits in six innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out two.
NOTES: The Orioles are 2-10 on Mondays. ... RHP Joba Chamberlain will make a rehab appearance for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday. ... Orioles 2B Robert Andino (left shoulder) played in a rehab game for Triple-A Norfolk Sunday, going 1 for 5. He could join Baltimore in New York on Tuesday if all goes well in Monday's game. ... Orioles slugger Jim Thome will have an MRI Tuesday morning. He has not played since Friday because of neck spasms.