Yankees' division push begins in Baltimore

NEW YORK -- For the Yankees to have any chance at coming from behind to win the American League East, somebody is going to have to beat the Baltimore Orioles.

That somebody had better be the Yankees.

The Orioles are 15-8 since the All-Star break, which is all the more impressive because every one of those games has been against a team with a winning record. By Sunday morning, the O's had built a six-game lead in the division, the biggest in baseball and as big a lead as any team has had in the AL East this season.

"They have the lead in our division, and that's where we want to be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday. "This is the team we're chasing. We have to win a series, and maybe do more than that. We have to play extremely well, because they're playing well."

The way Girardi sees it, the Yankees have a shot because they play the Orioles 10 times in the 45 games left on the schedule, beginning with three games this week in Baltimore.

The only problem is that the rest of the Orioles' remaining schedule hardly looks difficult. Heading into Monday, the O's have only six series remaining against teams that currently have winning records -- and three of those are against the Yankees. For the most part, when the Orioles aren't playing the Yankees, they'll be playing teams like the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees' remaining schedule isn't overly challenging, either, which could be a help in the four-way (or more) race for the final AL wild-card spot. But until or unless the Orioles really pull away, the Yankees would prefer to see themselves as fighting for a division title rather than just the wild card and a one-game playoff that would almost certainly be on the road.

The Yankees are 3-6 against the Orioles this season, having lost two of three in each of their first three head-to-head series. The Yankees haven't lost a season series to the Orioles since 1997, which was also the last season that the Orioles finished ahead of the Yankees in the American League East (although the two teams finished tied in the standings last year).

The Yankees are 111-66 at Camden Yards since the ballpark opened in 1992, with the most wins there of any visiting team.

To have any chance at winning the AL East, they're going to need a few more -- starting this week.