Yankees restore order, back in first

BALTIMORE -- The Saturday night postgame clubhouse chaos had passed. It was about 17 hours after the mayhem, and the New York Yankees were in their dress suits having taken care of their business, putting the Baltimore Orioles in their place with a 13-3 laugher.

So instead of ripping umpires, arguing with reporters and scheduling emergency conference calls with the team president, it was just a normal, tranquil Yankees post-win clubhouse.

The veteran Yanks marked the calendar on another trip gone well enough, doing what they needed to do to leave Camden Yards alone in first place after splitting this exciting four-game series.

"We had lost two out of three so a split was huge," said Derek Jeter, who added two more hits, including a two-run homer, on Sunday.

This wrapped up a 10-game stretch between the Yankees and their 2012 rivals, the Orioles and Rays, in which the Yanks went 4-6. Their lead in the AL East is now one over the Orioles and two over the Rays, but the Yankees have to be the favorites considering their schedule.

They have 22 games remaining. The next two weekends, there are big series against the Rays and A's at home. The other 16 games include six with the last-place Red Sox, beginning with a three-gamer in Boston, starting Tuesday. Plus three at the last-place Twins and seven with the just-out-of-last-place Blue Jays.

The Rays and Orioles will meet for three here starting Tuesday, and then end the season playing each other in Tampa.

The Yankees are now done with the Orioles for the regular season. The two teams ended 2012 having won nine games each against the other. If there is a one-game playoff, home-field advantage will be based on the teams' divisional records. The Yankees are 29-27 against the AL East right now, while the Orioles are currently 32-24.

But the Yankees left Baltimore feeling pretty good on Sunday, because even though Mark Teixeira's next game is unknown, there are signs that two struggling players could be turning things around.

Prior to Sunday, Curtis Granderson needed binoculars to see the Mendoza Line the past 18 games. He was a .155 hitter during that span, and for the second consecutive day against a lefty Joe Girardi chose not to start him.

Granderson was a pinch-hitter in the sixth against righty Jake Arrieta and went yard. And he wasn't done, staying in the game and adding a pair of two-run hits later on, including one off a lefty. Granderson ended the day with his team-leading totals upped to 35 homers and 86 RBIs.

"It would be great to get him going because he is so important to our offense," Girardi said.

Also, Joba Chamberlain is starting to make an impact, becoming a reliever Girardi may be able to count on. Chamberlain got the win Sunday, picking up four of his five outs via strikeout. He even dusted off a signature fist pump when he ended the fifth with an 86-mph slider that got J.J. Hardy to swing and miss.

Chamberlain and four other relievers provided 17 outs on the day. Freddy Garcia, in what could be his final start before being demoted from the rotation, lasted until only one out in the fourth inning, even though the Yankees had given him a five-run cushion.

The Yankees' starters need to be better for the team to close this division out. Girardi has acknowledged that. On Thursday, David Phelps was the culprit. On Saturday, it was CC Sabathia. On Sunday, it was Garcia. All three did not provide the starts the Yankees needed. Phil Hughes, on Friday, was the only Yankees starter who came through in this series.

But the Yankees left town on a private train back to New York for their off day feeling good, knowing they could tick one more day off the schedule and still have first place all to themselves.

The Yankees did what they needed to do, so they tipped the clubbies on the way out of the clubhouse and moved on to the next city.

Club Calm was back, and it returned to first place. Next stop? Boston on Tuesday.