Now it's 2003, and the Yankees and Cubs are locking horns at Wrigley Field for the first time since the 1938 World Series, when the Yankees swept them in four games. Obviously these teams have changed quite a bit over the last 65 years. The 2003 Cubs feature a dominating young pitching staff, headlined by the three aces that the Yankees will face: Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. All three sport better-than-league-average ERAs and all three are among the league leaders in strikeouts. But what the Cubs have in pitching, they lack in hitting, possibly even more so for this series. The Cubs' best hitter, Sammy Sosa will be suspended for eight games after umpires found cork in his bat. Sosa will appeal the charges and will likely be able to play against the Yankees.
On paper, the match up between these two teams seems very even. Both are around the top of their league in runs allowed, but the Cubs are toward the middle of the pack in runs scored. The Cubs are coming off a victorious home series against Tampa Bay, and the Yankees just dropped two of three to the Reds.
The games will all be played at Wrigley Field, and as a result, there will be no designated hitter.
Friday: David Wells (LHP, 7-2, 3.35) vs. Carlos Zambrano (RHP, 5-4, 2.69)
Wells returned to action last Sunday when he made a rare relief appearance against the Detroit Tigers. Wells entered the game in the 12th inning and pitched 5 2/3 frames to finally grab the win. The big lefty had missed a start with an injured calf. In his last start against the Blue Jays, Wells was touched up for five runs in five innings in a losing effort. Troy O'Leary owns 37 at bats against Wells and does well against him, posting a .297 batting average.
Zambrano has been a nice surprise for the Cubs this season, surpassing expectations and joining Wood and Prior at the top of the staff, with an ERA better than either of them. Zambrano has allowed more than four earned runs just once this season, and has actually pitched better than his record indicates. In his last start, the 22-year old pitched eight innings of shutout ball against a hard-hitting Houston team, but did not figure in the decision. Zambrano has never faced the Yankees, but Todd Zeile is 0-3 against him and Bubba Trammell is 1-2 against him in their careers.
Saturday: Roger Clemens (RHP, 6-3, 3.89) vs. Kerry Wood (RHP, 4-4, 3.14)
Clemens makes his third – and hopefully final – attempt at career victory no. 300 on Saturday. Clemens has failed both times to notch the elusive victory since posting no. 299 on May 21 against Boston. In his last outing, Clemens had a 7-1 lead before losing it with the help of some poor defense behind him. The game went far into extra innings, depriving him of the win. The Rocket is second in the AL in strikeouts this season behind teammate Mike Mussina, and the Cubs are third in the majors in striking out. Clemens and the Yankees would like to get his 300th victory over with, so they can stop pressing for it.
Nobody fans batters like Kerry Wood though. Wood leads the majors in Ks with 100, and will be making his first ever start against the Yankees. Wood did not register a win in the month of May, despite posting a 2.78 ERA. In his last start, he allowed five runs against Houston over six innings and took the loss. All current Yankees are hitting a combined .091 off of Wood, with 12 strikeouts in 22 at bats.
Sunday: Andy Pettitte (LHP, 5-5, 4.71) vs. Mark Prior (RHP, 6-2, 2.76)
After snapping a four-game losing streak on May 27, Pettitte has looked sharp. In his last outing, he allowed just two earned runs against the Reds over seven innings, but didn't figure in the decision. He also struck out a season-high nine batters in that game. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez has faced Pettitte 56 times in his career – Gonzalez spent several years with Toronto – but hits only .132 off of the lefty.
Mark Prior is the newest, youngest ace in town after emerging with the Cubs last season. In 2003, Prior has been even better, posting lofty numbers across the board. In his last appearance, Prior shut down the Devil Rays for eight innings, allowing just two runs but not figuring in the decision. Prior has been something of a workhorse, pitching at least six innings in every one of his starts, and throwing two complete games. This is Prior's first game against the Yankees in his career.
Cubs 2B Mark Grudzielanek has missed two straight games after the birth of his first child. He will probably be available for Friday's game … The Cubs re-acquired RHP Alan Benes on Wednesday from the Texas Rangers, just over a month after trading him there for a player to be named later … Hideki Matsui responded to being moved down in the batting order by going 4-5 with a homerun and three doubles on Thursday, making it likely he will stay there for the time being … The Yankees traded minor league OF Marcus Thames to Texas in return for OF/DH Ruben Sierra. Sierra, a switch hitter, was hitting .263 with three homeruns for Texas and will act as a left-handed bat off the bench for the Yanks.