Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals @ Yankees

Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals head into Yankee Stadium this weekend for a three-game series with the Yanks, and he's bringing some familiar faces with him. For the first time since their respective departures, beloved catcher Joe Girardi and first baseman Tino Martinez will make an appearance at Yankee Stadium. In this series, they will be the opposition however, as they bring a tough Cardinals team into town.

The Yankees raised their interleague record to 5-5 with their win over the Houston Astros on Thursday, one day after being no-hit by them. But one win won't right the ship entirely for the struggling Bombers. Controversy continues to swarm around them regarding the actions of owner, George Steinbrenner, and the team has been weakened by injuries. Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson remain out with injuries, and Jose Contreras was just placed on the disabled list with a strained pitching shoulder. Reliever Juan Acevedo was released last week as well, after pitching poorly in several outings. But the Yankees ended their latest series on a high note, finishing off a come-from-behind victory over Houston.

St. Louis is coming off of a series win against the Yankees' biggest rival, the Boston Red Sox. They were outscored in the series 27-18, but that included a 13-1 blowout on Wednesday. St. Louis is being led by the phenomenal hitting of the young Albert Pujols. Pujols leads the majors in batting average (.382) and slugging percentage (.711) and is in the top five in several other offensive categories. He is establishing himself as one of the biggest threats in the game, and he's been even hotter lately, hitting .560 over the last week.

The Cardinals' other weapons are at the top of their rotation. Woody Williams and Matt Morris have both been outstanding so far this season, and the Yankees will have to deal with both of them in this series. If St. Louis has a weak point, it is their bullpen. Jeff Fassero leads the team in appearances, but has posted a lofty 5.56 ERA, and Dustin Hermanson has a 6.31 ERA in 20 outings.

The Yankees will have to approach this series similarly to their series with Houston. St. Louis has a dangerous lineup filled with premier hitters like Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and the surging Edgar Renteria. And two of the three starters the Yanks will see are among the best in the league. But if the Yankees can get into the St. Louis bullpen early enough, they will give themselves a chance to score a lot of runs. This series will definitely be fun to watch.

Yankees Home Record: 15-16
Cardinals Road Record: 12-17

Pitching Probables

Friday: Jason Simontacchi (RHP, 4-3, 6.56) vs. Roger Clemens (RHP, 6-4, 3.81) Simontacchi's been off and on this year. He earned a win in relief in his last outing, pitching a perfect inning against the Orioles on Sunday. In his last start before that, he was knocked around by the Blue Jays for five runs in five innings. Simontacchi is a finesse pitcher, with good movement on his fastball and a nasty changeup, but he is only an average pitcher. This game will be the Yankees' opportunity to get some runs across.
Roger Clemens is being very repetitive lately. He's already tried three times to get win number 300, and hasn't managed to do so yet. In his last outing, Juan Acevedo blew his lead against the Cubs, and the Rocket was denied again. Acevedo is no longer a Yankee, and hopefully Clemens will be able to exploit the pitching matchup and finally give himself a reason to wear that "300" patch.

Saturday: Matt Morris (RHP, 7-3, 3.06) vs. Andy Pettitte (LHP, 5-6, 5.33) Morris has been dominant so far this season, pitching back-to-back shutouts earlier in May. In his last outing however, he was tagged for seven runs in five innings against the lowly Orioles, but the Cards came back to win the game and spare Morris a loss. Raul Mondesi is hitting .500 off of Morris in six at bats.
Andy Pettitte is coming off of one of the worst starts of his career, a 1 2/3 inning, six run debacle at Wrigley Field. Prior to that start, Pettitte had shown signs of coming out of his funk, throwing two good starts in a row against Boston and Cincinnati. Pettitte is a fierce competitor though, and might use his poor outing against the Cubs as motivation to dominate the Cards.

Sunday: Woody Williams (RHP, 8-1, 2.33) vs. Mike Mussina (RHP, 8-4, 3.05) Woody Williams has emerged this season as an ace, after showing signs of greatness last season. Williams has a nasty changeup, and excellent fastball both of which are as effective against lefties as they are against righties. Like Morris, Williams' last outing was probably his worst of the year. He was hit hard by Boston, surrendering five runs in 6 2/3 innings. But prior to that, Williams had allowed just three earned runs in his last 22 innings.
Mussina grabbed his first win in over a month in his last outing against Houston. The Moose continues to lead the AL in strikeouts with 94, and has really only had one bad start all year, but St. Louis is a tough team to strike out. This game has the potential to be a tremendous pitcher's duel, something that the Yankees haven't participated in in a while.

Notes: The Yankees released Juan Acevedo on Tuesday after several poor performances. Jason Anderson was called up to replace him … Jose Contreras was placed on the DL on Tuesday, the latest in a long string of key injuries on the Yankees. Al Reyes took his spot on the roster … Hideki Matsui has been on fire the last week, hitting .571 over the Yankees last seven games … The Cardinals activated Girardi (neck) and Jason Isringhausen (shoulder) on Tuesday. Both players had missed the entire season so far … Tino Martinez injured his hamstring on June 10, but hopes to play against his former team.

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