Blue Jays @ Yankees Series Preview

Things are finally starting to go right for the New York Yankees again. After starting off the season red-hot, the Yankees hit a collective slump. Their runs per game dropped significantly, and all of a sudden they had lost seven of nine and found themselves in a tie for first place with the rival Boston Red Sox going into a three-game set at Fenway.

Things can change in an instant in baseball and the Yankees ended up taking two of three from Boston in a dramatic series that featured Roger Clemens' 299th career win against his former team. The Yankees scored an average of six runs per game in the series, and reclaimed first place for their very own.

Toronto meanwhile, after finding themselves above .500 on Monday for the first time since they were 5-4 on April 10, lost the final two games of their series with the Chicago White Sox to drop back down to a losing record. Despite the two-game losing streak, Toronto is 6-4 in their last ten games and has scored the most runs in the American League – thanks in large part to Vernon Wells (.299 BA, 45 RBI) and Carlos Delgado (.313 BA, 42 RBI) who are both enjoying monster seasons.

Toronto and New York have already faced each other in two series in 2003. They opened the season against each other in Toronto, where the Yankees swept the Jays, outscoring them 27-11. Two weeks later, they played a four-game set at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won three of the four games, shutting out the Jays twice in the process. The two division rivals lock horns this week for a four-game series, their last meetings before the final series of the season.

Pitching Probables

Thursday: Roy Halladay (4-2, 4.54) vs. Andy Pettitte (4-4, 4.47)

Halladay has won four straight starts after starting the season roughly. In those last four starts, the 6'6" right-hander has lasted at least seven innings each time, and has allowed just two earned runs in his previous two starts. Both of Halladay's losses came against the Yankees, an 8-4 mashing on opening day, and a 5-0 defeat on April 15 at the Stadium.

Pettitte is on a three-game losing skid. In his last three starts, his ERA has climbed from 3.96 to 4.47. The lefty recently served up three homeruns in one start against the Athletics. In his two starts this season against Toronto, Pettitte is 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA. Wells, Delgado and Shannon Stewart all have good numbers against Pettitte – batting .500, .327 and .438 against him respectively.

Friday: Kelvim Escobar (1-1, 7.08) vs. Mike Mussina (7-2, 2.22)

Escobar started for the first time this season on Sunday. The former closer pitched three innings, allowing a run on two hits and three walks while fanning two Royals batters. Escobar was converted back into a starter after not producing as the Blue Jays' closer. Opponents are still batting .319 off of him this season. Several Yankees hit Escobar well, but none better than Bubba Trammell, who pummels him to the tune of a .727 average in 11 at bats. Look for Trammell to start in left field or at DH on Friday.

Mike Mussina has lost two straight starts, but not for a lack of effort. After winning his first seven games, Mussina ran out of run support – the Yankees have scored just four runs in his last two appearances. Mussina already owns two wins against Toronto this season, including an eight-inning, three-hit performance on April 15. Only Frank Catalanotto has better-than-average numbers against the Moose, with a .464 average in 28 at bats.

Saturday: Cory Lidle (7-2, 4.68) vs. David Wells (6-1, 3.07)

Cory Lidle is on a four-game winning streak of his own right now. In his last outing, he threw a complete game against the Chicago White Sox, allowing two runs on seven hits. Lidle was thrashed by the Yankees in his first start of the season as part of a 10-1 beating, but beat the Yanks on April 16 despite allowing five runs in five innings. Jason Giambi has excellent numbers against Lidle, a .438 batting average with three homeruns. Lidle –currently tied with Mussina and Esteban Loaizia – will be looking for the league-leading eighth win of the season.

David Wells, who picked up his sixth win on his 40th birthday in his last start, will be looking for win number seven on the season. Wells did not figure in the decision in his first outing against Toronto this season, but owns a 1-2 record with an 8.83 ERA against them over the last three seasons. Shannon Stewart hits Wells to the tune of a .421 BA in 19 at bats.

Sunday: Doug Davis (1-3, 6.43) vs. Jeff Weaver (3-2, 5.15)

Doug Davis, who joined Toronto midseason from the Texas Rangers, is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, during which time his ERA has leaped from 4.70 to 6.43. Davis faced the Yankees while with Texas on April 26 and gave up four runs in three innings but not figuring in the decision. Only Jason Giambi has a significant number of at bats against Davis, and he is only hitting .167 against him.

Weaver garnered a no-decision in his last outing against Boston. Weaver left the game with the lead, but the Yankees bullpen blew it and Boston won 10-7. Weaver picked up his first win of the season against Toronto on April 17, when he threw 7 2/3 innings of three-hit, shutout ball. The entire core of Toronto's lineup hits well off of Weaver, led by Delgado, who has a .478 average against the young righty lifetime.

Notes: RHP Steve Karsay is out for the season after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Tuesday … Bernie Williams is now 0-for his last five games, dropping his average to .286. The centerfielder is battling knee injuries, but his average was as high as .390 as recently as April 23. Williams has also not homered in 10 games … 3B Eric Hinske had an MRI on his sore right wrist that revealed a deep bruise. The wrist has been hampering Hinske for the majority of the season, limiting him to .229 average and just 2 homeruns … Vernon Wells has now put together a nine-game hitting streak, adding three more hits on Wednesday. He is hitting .439 over that span with nine RBI and three homeruns.

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