Series Preview: Yankees(44-29) @ Devil Rays(24-49)

The Yankees are finally picking up some steam. After being no-hit by Houston, the Yankees have won eight of their last nine. They head into Tampa Bay for a rematch with the Devil Rays, who they took two of three from in a rain-shortened series. The D-Rays meanwhile, are mired in a five-game losing streak, but are coming home for a long homestand.

The Yankees have played just two games – against the Mets – since they last saw the Devil Rays. In that series, the Yanks were banged around in the first game with the help of some spotty pitching by Jeff Weaver and Sterling Hitchcock. Behind David Wells and Roger Clemens' no-hit bid, the Bombers came back to take the next two games before the final game was cancelled due to rain.

In the series with the Mets, Pettitte dominated their cross-town rivals and the Yankees walked all over the Flushing bullpen to win the first and third games. The second game was postponed due to rain after less than five innings, washing out 14 hits between the two teams.

The Devil Rays, meanwhile, spent their weekend being swept by the Florida Marlins. The series turned into a three-game pitching duel, with the Marlins outscoring Tampa 8-3 for the series. The D-Rays got some excellent pitching performances from Rob Bell, Jeremi Gonzalez – who has been great all year – and Jason Standridge, but couldn't muster the runs to win any of the games.

This series, like any Devil Rays/Yankees series, favors the Yankees. Virtually all of the pitching match ups are in the Yankees favor with the possible exception of Weaver, who has struggled all season. The Yankees should take at least three games in this series, but have the capability to sweep it before they return home to face the Mets again.

Yankees Road Record: 24-12
Devil Rays Home Record: 13-21

Pitching Probables:

Monday: Roger Clemens (7-4, 3.42) vs. Victor Zambrano (3-4, 3.89)
Clemens' last start came against the Devil Rays on June 18, and he almost pitched a no-hitter. The Rocket allowed just one hit over eight innings, but didn't get the win as the game moved into extra innings.
Zambrano was his opponent in that game as well, and he pitched almost as well. He allowed just two hits over eight innings, but walked five batters. Zambrano also took a loss against the Yankees on April 6 when he was touched up for five runs in just over five innings. This will be the third matchup between Clemens and Zambrano.

Tuesday: Jeff Weaver (3-6, 5.77) vs. Jorge Sosa (1-5, 5.18)
Weaver's start was pushed back from Sunday to Monday because of the rainout last Thursday. He will be pitching on five-days rest against the same D-Rays team that lit him up in his last outing. In that start, Weaver allowed six runs in five innings as the Yankees fell to Tampa, 11-2.
Sosa was recalled from triple-A Durham on June 8 and now looks to replace Dewon Brazelton in the rotation. Sosa has appeared in 12 games so far in 2003, and sports a 1-5 record with a 5.18 ERA, but he has a 1.95 ERA in three games since being recalled. Raul Mondesi and Robin Ventura hit .667 and .600 against Sosa respectively who has not had much success against the Yankees. Sosa isn't a definite to start on Tuesday since his last start was washed out, Joe Kennedy (3-5, 5.88) may rejoin the team in time to take this start.

Wednesday: Andy Pettitte (7-6, 4.79) vs. Rob Bell (0-1, 6.75)
Pettitte shut out the Mets for seven innings in his previous start, striking out eight batters for his second great start in a row. The southpaw has missed facing the D-Rays thus far this season, but owns a 9-1 record with a 3.03 ERA against them for his career.
Bell was slated to face the Yankees last Thursday, but the game was rained out. Instead he pitched on Friday against the Marlins and put in an excellent effort. The right-hander allowed just one hit over six innings, giving up just one run while striking out four. The outing lowered his ERA from 16.20 to its current point. All current combined Yankees are batting a whopping .439 against Bell, led by Jason Giambi and Mondesi, who are batting .556 against him.

Thursday: Mike Mussina (9-4, 2.99) vs. Jason Standridge (0-2, 4.32)
Like Pettitte, Mussina hasn't faced Tampa Bay this year, but he owns a 9-3 record with a 3.30 ERA against them. Mussina's last outing was washed away by the rain, and it was probably for the best. The Moose had already allowed three runs to Mets, who were rallying when the game was called. In his last official outing, Mussina worked over the Cardinals for eight innings, allowing just two runs on four hits.
Standridge has just three starts this season, but they have all been pretty good. He is averaging just under 5 2/3 innings per start, and 2.6 runs per game. In four games against the Yankees in his career, he is 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA, but his WHIP ratio is 1.74.

Notes: Bernie Williams has started his rehab program, but he won't return to the lineup until around the All-Star break … There are trade rumors swirling around Jeff Weaver since his last poor performance. One such rumor has him going to Pittsburgh with Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera for Brian Giles and Kris Benson … The D-Rays released pitcher Steve Parris on June 18 and called up Brandon Backe from the minors … Rey Ordonez might miss the rest of the season. He needs surgery on his injured knee … Carl Crawford and Marlon Anderson were both handed three-game suspensions for their parts in a brawl with Pittsburgh the other day, both are appealing and will play meanwhile.

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