Yankees @ White Sox Series Preview

Fresh off their tough four-game series split with Boston, the New York Yankees face the other Sox starting Monday, traveling to Chicago to take on the AL Central co-leading White Sox for three night games. Chicago, 28-22 and tied with Minnesota in the Central, sees the 33-18 Yankees for the first time in 2002. The teams won't meet again until mid-September in New York. By then, the Sox will have already hosted both New York teams, as the Mets travel to Comiskey Park in two weeks.

Offense takes center stage in this matchup of the two top scoring teams in baseball. The key for the Yankees – and the White Sox for that matter – will be keeping the ball in the park. Chicago leads the major leagues in runs scored at 285 entering Sunday's games and hits .276 as a team, with three regulars and super sub Tony Graffanino over .300. And they're hitting .304 at home, with 38 of their 59 homers at Comiskey.

Leading the charge is first baseman Paul Konerko, who leads the majors in RBIs with 47 and is third in batting average at .349. Add in OF Magglio Ordonez (.328-10-35) and a rejuvenated Kenny Lofton (.310, 19 steals) and the White Sox have regained their status as one of baseball's best hitting teams.

But the pitching staff, with the exception of ace Mark Buehrle, as been weak. Buehrle, who faces Roger Clemens in the marquee matchup Wednesday, has eight of the team's 28 wins and is the only starter with an ERA under 4.50. Young right-handers Dan Wright and John Garland – who pitch Monday and Tuesday respectively -- each have five wins but have ERAs over 5.

They'll be tested by the majors' leading home run-hitting team, and the No. 2 scoring team. The Yankees also rank second in team batting average, and lead in slugging percentage and hits.

New York won five of the six meetings in 2001, scoring 38 runs in the six games and holding the White Sox to 19.

MOUND MATCHUPS


Mike Thurman will make his first Yankees appearance Monday night, opposed on the mound by Wright of the Sox. Thurman, 25-36 with a 5.04 ERA in 85 career starts with Montreal, was called up Thursday when Orlando Hernandez went on the disabled list. The righty was 5-3 with a 4.18 ERA in nine starts at Class AAA Columbus this season.

Wright is 5-4 with a 5.27 ERA but is coming off two straight solid outings, a shutout of Texas and a win over Boston. In his last 15 1/3 innings, the right-hander has allowed just three earned runs and 10 hits. Wright, who made his major league debut last season and went 5-3 with a 5.70 ERA in 12 starts, lost in his only 2001 start against the Yankees, allowing five runs in four innings.

On Tuesday, Garland will be opposed by tough-luck lefty Ted Lilly. Lilly is 1-4 despite a fine 2.93 ERA and has been ineffective in just two of his six starts. But one of those was his last appearance, Thursday against Boston when he took the loss, giving up three runs and six hits in five innings. Lilly had one start against Chicago in 2001 and it was a successful if not spectacular one, getting the win despite giving up four earned runs in six innings.

Garland, 5-3 with a 5.10 ERA, is coming off eight shutout innings in a win over Boston after three straight poor starts. He has started once against the Yankees, losing last year in a game where he allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Wednesday's matchup features two of the AL's best, as Roger Clemens and Mark Buehrle square off. Clemens, last year's Cy Young winner, started slowly in 2002, losing two of his first three decisions. But since then, Clemens has won six straight decisions and is now 7-2 with a 3.79 ERA. In his last start, though, Clemens was knocked around by Boston, giving up five runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Buehrle emerged in 2001 as one of the best left-handers in baseball, going 16-8 with a 2.91 ERA. He's picked up where he left off in 2002, starting out 8-3 with a 2.91 ERA. He shut out Detroit Friday night with a five-hitter. His only start against the Yankees in 2001 was one of his worst, giving up 10 hits and six runs in 6 2/3 innings.

SERIES NOTEBOOK


Andy Pettitte's rehab process took a step backward Sunday when Pettitte was forced to cut short a rehab outing for Tampa (Single-A) against Sarasota yesterday because of a tired left elbow. Pettitte threw three perfect innings, fanning two, and throwing 34 pitches. However, he was slated to go four innings or 60 pitches in his second rehab start and couldn't. Pettitte, who hasn't pitched since April 15 when he left a game against the Red Sox after three innings, had his fastball clocked at 89 mph yesterday. He is expected to pitch for Tampa Friday if his bullpen sessions go OK this week. Had he gone deeper yesterday he was going to pitch for Columbus (Triple-A) against Pawtucket Friday. … SS Derek Jeter's 16-hitting streak ended Sunday, one game shy of tying his personal best. ... C Jorge Posada went 0-for-4 Saturday and was mired in a 2-for-24 slump, but snapped out of it Sunday with two hits, including a home run, and three RBI. … Sunday's win made the Yankees 17-10 on the road. They've gone 16-8 at Yankee Stadium. … In 51 games, the Yankees have now hit 82 home runs, easily the most in baseball. Oddly, the Yankees haven't led the AL in home runs since 1961. … The Yankees offense is at or near the top in most categories, but that includes strikeouts where they're pushing 400, or close to eight per game. … The series marks the first return to Comiskey for Yankees 3B Robin Ventura since he was not re-signed by the White Sox after the 1998 season.

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