Ranking the second-half schedules: Tough times ahead for Yankees?

Manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees should brace for a challenging second half of the season. Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Fredi Gonzalez can testify to the importance of strength of schedule. Before the season began, it was evident that the Atlanta Braves and their manager faced a ridiculously difficult gauntlet of playoff contenders (as I noted before the season), series after series of World Series wannabes, and by the middle of May, Gonzalez was out of a job. That Atlanta has played better since then might be as much a function of who they've played as anything else.

With that in mind, here are the strength-of-schedule rankings for the second half for all contending teams, ranked from the toughest to the easiest. The forecast ahead is very good for the Pirates and Dodgers.

1. New York Yankees

Home/road: 41 of their last 74 games are at home.

Games left against teams over .500: 58

Schedule notables: The Yankees might be on the fence about whether to be buyers or sellers, but the difficulty of their second-half schedule should be written down on the "sell" side of the ledger. For example, coming out of the break, they have 13 consecutive games against contenders (Red Sox, Orioles, Giants and Astros). They still have 13 games against the Orioles, 10 against the Blue Jays and 13 against the Red Sox.

Big finish: The Yankees will have opportunities -- and hurdles -- down the stretch; their last 10 games are against the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Orioles. The last six games of the regular season are at home.