Series Preview: Yankees (33-23) @ Reds (27-29)

Interleague play commences for the Yankees as they head into Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark for a three-game series with the Reds. The Yankees and Reds haven't faced each other since the 1978 World Series, when the Bombers ran into The Big Red Machine and were swept in four games. That series was famous for being the first World Series ever to use the designated hitter, but there will be no DH in Cincinnati for this series, something that may hinder the Yankees' chances.

The long ball will almost certainly be a key factor in this matchup, though exactly how is anyone's guess. Both the Yankees and Reds are in the top five in homeruns hit, while the Reds' pitching staff has allowed more dingers (80) than any other club's. For comparison, the Yankees lead the league in fewest homeruns allowed with 37. And since the Great American Ballpark opened this year, 85 homeruns have been hit there.

The Reds' offensive core consists of a phenomenal outfield comprised of some combination of Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn and Jose Guillen. Dunn leads the majors in homeruns with 18, and Kearns leads the NL in RBI with 49. Sean Casey leads the team with a .298 batting average to go with his Gold-Glove caliber play at first base.

The Reds are coming off of a winning series at Florida, but are just 3-7 in their last ten games. Cincinnati's problems this season stem from a woeful pitching staff. They do not have a single established starting pitcher, and their bullpen is inconsistent at best.

The Yankees have gained some momentum lately, winning two straight series against Boston and Detroit. Their last game was a killer 17-inning debacle however, and might take its toll on the bullpen. The series against Detroit shook up the Yankees rotation too. Jose Contreras' excellent start against the Tigers earned him a second one, and Jeff Weaver's troubles have pushed him to the bullpen for now.

Pitching Probables


Tuesday: Andy Pettitte (LHP, 5-5, 4.93) vs. Jimmy Haynes (RHP, 0-4, 10.72)

Pettitte snapped a personal five-game losing streak in his last outing against the Red Sox. The southpaw had his best start since late April with a two-run, 7 2/3 inning performance. Pettitte has naturally never faced the Reds, nor has he pitched in Cincinnatti, but he has faced former Seattle Mariner Ken Griffey Jr. And he doesn't seem to enjoy it. In 24 at bats against Pettitte, Junior owns a .375 batting average with a homerun.

Haynes missed significant time this season on the disabled list for an injured back. He made his return to the Reds' rotation last week, and looked better than his previous four starts. Against a red-hot Atlanta, Haynes threw five innings of two-run ball. Haynes pitched in the AL from 1995-99 and has faced the Yankees a number of times. He has a career record of 1-2 with a 7.46 ERA against them in six appearances.

Wednesday: Mike Mussina (RHP, 7-3, 2.62) vs. Paul Wilson (RHP, 2-4, 4.80)

Mussina's last start was up to his usual high standards, eight innings and three runs against Boston. But the bullpen blew his lead, and extended the Moose's winless streak to four straight starts. Mussina, like Pettitte, has never faced Cincinnati. But he has faced a few of its players. The Moose has Griffey's number, striking him out 13 times in 42 at bats, and keeping him to a .143 BA. But Jose Guillen hits Mussina to the tune of a .364 average in 11 at bats. Mussina is a high-strikeout pitcher though, and Cincinnati leads the majors in strikeouts, a good combination for the Yankees.

Wilson has been a nice pickup for the Reds this season. He is second on the team in ERA, but his win totals have been deflated due to the bullpen and untimely hitting. A sinkerball pitcher, Wilson should have an easier time in the Reds' homer-happy stadium. Wilson hasn't allowed more than four runs in any of his last five starts, but he hasn't won since May 13. The former Tampa Bay Devil Ray has faced the Yankees a few times in his career, and Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi hit him well - .368 and .333 BAs respectively. Wilson has never won against the Yanks in seven appearances.

Thursday: Jose Contreras (RHP, 2-1, 5.40) vs. Danny Graves (RHP, 3-4, 4.79)

Contreras pitched his way into the Yankees' starting rotation with his performance against the Tigers on Friday. The Cuban defector pitched seven shutout innings to pick up the win, and Jeff Weaver's rotation spot. Contreras will look to build on his perfect record as a starter and further bring down his engorged ERA against a Reds team full of new faces for him.

Graves was converted from closer to starter at the end of last season, and after some early rough starts, he has settled down – even throwing a complete-game shutout against St. Louis on May 14. Lately, Graves is on a two-game losing streak, both to Florida. Robin Ventura has a .375 BA against Graves lifetime.

Notes


Jeff Weaver will be pitching out of the bullpen as a setup man until either he or Contreras prove they should be in other positions … Jason Giambi will play first base every day during the interleague series. Giambi had been seeing most of his at bats at DH over the last week, nursing a sore knee … Reds INF Ryan Freel was placed on the DL with a torn hamstring … RHP Scott Williamson left the Reds' 5/26 game with a hyper-extended elbow, but has pitched twice since, grabbing a pair of saves.

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