Confident Yanks shake off loss to A's

NEW YORK -- It is all in their hands, and they know it. This New York Yankees season could end in infamy or a parade. All in all, they are well positioned.

In the next 10 days, the Yankees don't need any help from anyone. If they take care of their business they will be the AL East champs and maybe even the No. 1 seed in the American League playoffs.

"If we win our games, we'll be where we want to be," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "That is all you can ask for."

The Yankees had a chance to move a step closer to their goal on Sunday, but couldn't sweep the Oakland A's, losing 5-4. The Baltimore Orioles lost to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway, so the Yankees' lead in the AL East remains one game with 10 to go.

The Yankees were bound to lose eventually after winning seven in a row, but they are still playing solid baseball despite Hiroki Kuroda's and Eduardo Nunez's struggles on Sunday. They have won nine of their past 11 and 12 of their past 17.

With a schedule that noted Tampa Bay Rays fan Dick Vitale would describe as, "Cupcake City, baby," the Yankees may win more than just the AL East. They possibly could strip home-field advantage throughout the playoffs from the Texas Rangers.

In their final 10 games, the Yankees face three teams that could finish last in their divisions. Starting Monday night versus the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees throw Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.

The Twins? They counter with Liam Hendriks, Esmerling Vasquez and Samuel Deduno. Not exactly Blyleven, Viola and Santana.

The ERAs of the three Minnesota starters are 5.88, 6.75 and 4.54, which makes anything less than a sweep a disappointment for the Yankees.

After four versus the depleted Toronto Blue Jays up north, the Yankees finish at home with three against the dreadful Red Sox.

"You still got to play the games," Eric Chavez said. "That's what Jeter always says, 'You've got to play the games.' But are we supposed to beat the teams we are supposed to beat? Yeah. We need to go ahead and have another good week and try to finish this thing up as good as we can."

The Orioles' schedule is not that tough, either, but harsher than the Yankees' schedule. They have a doubleheader Monday -- against the Jays -- and they finish in St. Pete with the fading, but still tough, Rays.

Before Tampa Bay, their next seven games are against the Jays and Red Sox. All are at home.

The sudden curveball in the playoff scenario is the real possibility that the Yankees could be the No. 1 seed. The Yankees trailed the Rangers by two games for the best record in the American League. The Yankees own the tiebreaker over Texas based on their head-to-head advantage.

The Rangers have a tough schedule. They are home for the next seven, but play the A's and the Los Angeles Angels before going to Oakland to finish out the season.

The Yankees know what is ahead of them, but they are too experienced a bunch of players -- led by an ultra-serious manager -- to take anyone for granted.

Joe Girardi already sounds like Lou Holtz in his Notre Dame prime talking about the Twins, whose next loss will be their 90th of the season.

"You are going to Minnesota playing a team that plays the game fundamentally right," Girardi said. "You know that. They have some guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. They have some really good hitters. I don't ever look at a team and say, 'Their record is not where they thought it would be and it is going to be games that you should win.'"

Maybe you can't predict baseball, Suzyn, but the Yankees should win.

Having a 10-game lead in July and seeing it whittle down to one game is one thing, but with the easy road ahead, it would be shocking and embarrassing if the Yankees didn't make the playoffs. Really, they are well positioned. They may even end up with the No. 1 seed.