Series Preview: Yankees (51-30) @ Orioles (35-44)

The Yankees and Orioles are finally meeting for the first time in 2003 right at the end of June, the latest in the season they have met since 1983. But these teams finally get a chance to play each other, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Yankees, who are on a seven-game win streak and are playing like they did at the beginning of the season.

The Yankees have won eleven of their last twelve games, all against the Devil Rays and Mets. But it hasn't just been feeding off of lowly teams that has propelled the Bronx Bombers back toward the top of the Major League standings. The Yankees are hitting and pitching better than they were for the better part of the year before now. Led by Hideki Matsui (.500 average over the last week) and Jason Giambi (.458 in the last week), the Yankees are living up to their nickname. The starting pitching has been sharper than before, and even Jeff Weaver is showing signs of coming out of his slump. The bullpen still needs work, but the arrival of Dan Miceli should help stabilize things for the foreseeable future.

The Orioles, on the other hand, are in something of a tailspin after being swept by the Phillies this weekend. Baltimore hasn't won any of its last four series, and has only taken one series – from Milwaukee – in the month of June. Melvin Mora has been a complete surprise in 2003. The usually seldom-used utility man is now playing everyday and batting .357 with 11 homeruns so far this year. B.J. Surhoff has returned to the Orioles and seems to have rediscovered his swing, hitting .333 in 44 games through Sunday. Baltimore's lineup has also been bolstered by a few rookies, including 2B Brian Roberts (.281 average) and CF Luis Matos (.346 BA).

The Yankees have a good chance to continue their winning streak and sweep the Orioles in Baltimore. Only Monday's pitching matchup favors the O's, and then only on paper. Andy Pettitte has been excellent lately, and has great numbers against Baltimore. Should the Yankees sweep Baltimore, it would extend their streak to ten games before they head home for a four-game series with the Red Sox. That kind of momentum would be an excellent weapon to help put some space between them and Boston atop the AL East.

Yankees Road Record: 28-13 Orioles Home Record: 17-22

Monday: Andy Pettitte (8-6, 4.80) vs. Sidney Ponson (10-4, 3.76)
Pettitte is going for his season-high fourth-straight win on Monday, coming off three solid starts. In his last outing, he allowed five runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Devil Rays, but actually pitched better than that. The southpaw has been on a roll since stifling the Cardinals on June 14. Pettitte's strikeout rates are on the rise as well, a good sign. In his last 21 1/3 innings, he has struck out 22 batters. In 22 games against Baltimore, Pettitte has a 14-4 record and a 3.84 ERA over his career.
Ponson has been a pleasant surprise for Baltimore in 2003, eating up tons of innings and pitching up to his long-heralded potential. He has already surpassed last season's win total, and is just two away from his career high. Ponson's last outing was a gem against the hard-hitting Blue Jays. He tossed a complete game, and allowed just two runs despite ten hits. For his career, Ponson is 2-7 with a 4.57 ERA against the Yankees

Tuesday: Mike Mussina (10-4, 2.95) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (1-4, 7.63)
Mussina hooks up with the team that he won 147 games for in ten seasons for for just the seventh time since joining the Yankees. After snapping a four-game slide on June 4, Mussina has rattled off three straight sparkling wins against Houston, St. Louis and Tampa Bay, allowing just two runs in each game. Since coming to New York in 2001, Mussina is 5-1 with a 3.20 ERA against his former team.
Coming off a phenomenal 2002, Lopez was supposed to help anchor the Orioles' pitching staff in 2003. Instead he has been a disaster, spending a great deal of time on the disabled list and not being effective even when healthy. In his last start, Lopez was chased after just 1 2/3 innings after allowing eight runs – six earned – to Toronto. He wasn't charged with a loss because the Orioles tied the game before losing, but it wasn't an encouraging start for the ailing Lopez.

Wednesday: David Wells (10-2, 3.40) vs. Jason Johnson (6-3, 3.80)
Wells still hasn't lost a start dating back to May 24, well over a month and six appearances later. Wells' last appearance wasn't his best, but it was enough to get the job done against the Devil Rays, allowing four runs over six innings. The biggest statistic surrounding Wells is his walk rate, which is on pace to shatter the previous record. In 113 2/3 innings, Wells has walked just four batters – a mind-bending number. For comparison, his opponent Wednesday, Johnson, walked five batters in just his last start. Wells, who was an Oriole back in 1996 before his first stint in New York, is 12-8 with a 4.07 ERA in 36 games against Baltimore.
Johnson is coming off a terrific start against the Phillies on Friday in which he went eight innings and allowed just one run on five hits and the aforementioned five walks. Johnson has been pretty consistent all season, allowing more than three earned runs in just three starts, and never more than five. Against the Yankees, Johnson is 1-6 with a respectable 3.88 ERA in ten appearances.

Notes: The Orioles placed RHP Willis Roberts on the disabled list with an elbow injury. They called up RHP Hector Carrasco from triple-A to take his place in the bullpen … Tony Batista has four homeruns and nine RBI in his last seven games … 2B Luis Matos is batting .380 over his last four games … Yankees LHP Brandon Claussen, who made his major-league debut on Saturday night against the Mets, is sticking around for the time being and might even be asked to start one more game before returning to Columbus … Hideki Matsui is batting .410 for the month of June, with six homeruns and 28 RBI, after hitting .261 in May and .255 in April … Jason Giambi is hitting .363 in June with 11 homeruns and 29 RBI … The Yankees have played the following teams before ever seeing their division-rival Orioles: the Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Mets, Tigers and the entire AL West.

Subscribe to today! Only $79.95 brings you one full year of Total Access Pass, ESPN the Magazine, and all premium content on, Scout™ Player and Roster Database (including the 'Hot News' at the top of the site), Breaking News and Information, Total Access to all Websites, and Player Pages, detailing the progress and careers of players from high school, the minors, and the pro ranks.

Sample the Total Access Pass™ at no risk for 5 days, then pay only $7.95 or $21.95. If you want to save 2 months off the monthly subscription price, simply choose the annual Total Access Pass™ at $79.95.

Subscribe to

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories