BALTIMORE -- Curtis Granderson's bat finally came alive and the rest of his Yankees teammates enjoyed their biggest blowout of the season, reclaiming sole possession of the top spot in the American League East.
Granderson broke out of an extended slump with a pinch-hit home run and five RBIs to help the Yankees coast to a 13-3 laugher on Sunday at Camden Yards, marking their largest margin of victory of the season.
"It's just a matter of continuing to swing the bat," Granderson said. "I feel like I'm getting balls to hit and putting good swings on them, but I wasn't able to do much with them for whatever reason. It's just baseball being baseball."
New York's bullpen pitched effectively after starter Freddy Garcia was trusted for just 10 outs, and the 79-61 Yankees finished the day standing alone once again in the American League East, one game ahead of Baltimore heading into a mutual off-day on Monday.
"We know they're a good club," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the Orioles, against whom his club finished 9-9 this season. "It's been an interesting year to say the least, and it was interesting with them."
Mired in a 5-for-43 skid entering the game and left out of New York's lineup for the second straight day, Granderson pinch-hit for Andruw Jones in the sixth inning and slugged the first pitch he saw from Jake Arrieta into the Orioles' bullpen.
Girardi said that it would be great to get Granderson going because of how important he is to their lineup, and it was suggested that this might be a good sign for the team's leading home run hitter, who now owns 35 blasts this year.
"Who knows? We've got a lot of baseball left to play," Granderson said. "I never wrote myself off by any means. I don't think anybody else did. As a team we were still able to pick up wins when we needed to, and even as a whole we're still not all clicking the way we want to."
The blast marked the 100th Yankees homer for Granderson, who added two-run hits in the seventh and eighth innings. Derek Jeter added a two-run homer in the eighth as the Yankees happily prepared for a train ride home coming off an emotional four-game split.
"We lost a couple tough games, but we did battle back, we never gave up," Jeter said. "We've come to expect that. We'd like to have won them but we didn't. Today was a big one for us."
The Yankees knocked around Orioles starter Zach Britton for five runs in 3 1/3 innings, including four runs in the fourth, as the left-hander was unable to navigate a self-created bases-loaded mess.
"I kind of just beat myself around today with the walks," Britton said. "It kind of screwed up the whole rhythm of the game for the whole team."
Steve Pearce and Jeter worked bases-loaded walks in an inning that also featured run-scoring singles by Jayson Nix and Ichiro Suzuki, leading the Orioles to call upon Jake Arrieta for his first career relief appearance in 59 big league games.
"Our guys were patient, patient, patient," Girardi said. "That was the reason we scored the runs."
Girardi didn't show that same patience for Garcia, who unraveled in the fourth inning and hit the showers early, unable to complete five innings for the third time in four starts.
Wilson Betemit bashed a two-run double and Matt Wieters stroked a RBI single off Garcia, who tossed just 52 pitches and could lose his rotation slot now that Ivan Nova is healthy and Andy Pettitte seems to be close behind.
Girardi also didn't completely commit to starting rookie David Phelps on Wednesday against the Red Sox.
"That's something I've got plenty of time to think about over the next 48 hours or so," he said.
Joba Chamberlain relieved Garcia and turned in his best outing since returning from the disabled list, striking out four over 1 2/3 hitless, scoreless innings.
"He was really good," Girardi said. "We think Joba's last three outings have really taken a step in the right direction. We felt that was important. We need him."
The last time Chamberlain struck out four batters in a relief appearance was during his phenomenal 2007 introduction to the big leagues, on Sept. 21 of that season against the Blue Jays.
"You've just got to continue to get fastball command, and everything's going to come off that," Chamberlain said. "I have the utmost confidence in both my curveball and my slider, so just having confidence in my fastball -- in and out -- is something that's been big for me."
Just as important at the time, before New York blew the game open with a five-run eighth inning, was Boone Logan's important strikeout of Chris Davis to end the sixth inning, representing the tying run for Baltimore.
Cory Wade also pitched a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts as the Yankees headed off to exhale, having completed a pivotal 10-game stretch against the Orioles and Rays with just four victories but still in control of their own destiny.
"The bottom line is we're still in first place," Girardi said. "The one thing that you want to be able to do is just rely on your club. You don't want to have to rely on other people."