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.