Series Preview: Red Sox (48-34) @ Yankees (52-31)

As the first half of the season passes by and the All-Star break looms near, the Yankees are about to play what could turn out to be their most important series of 2003. The Boston Red Sox are headed into town, just three and a half games back of the Yanks, for a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are coming off a rain-shortened series split with the Baltimore Orioles. Wednesday's afternoon game was cancelled due to rain (it will be made up on August 14) giving the Yankees a two-day break before their series with Boston. The break also gives the Yanks an opportunity to reset their rotation. Rookie Brandon Claussen was originally scheduled to face the Red Sox on Saturday, but with all the starters being pushed back a day, Claussen gets squeezed.

Claussen, who pitched a gem against the Mets last Saturday, will more than likely be sent back to AAA Columbus now that the Yankees rotation has restabilized.

The Yankees have won four out of the six games that these two teams have played so far this season. The Bombers took two of three from the Sox in Fenway back in May, then won two more a few days later at the Stadium. Boston is on a good stretch, winning seven of their last nine games through Wednesday. But during that stretch, Boston hasn't been playing top-quality teams – they've played Detroit, Florida and Tampa Bay.

This series, like all Boston vs. New York series, will be very, very fun to watch. The first three pitching matchups all favor for the Yankees. Derek Lowe has been poor on the road, Rupe is making just his second start of 2003, and Burkett isn't even as good as his record. The series will end with a blockbuster pitching matchup, between Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina. The great thing about Boston/New York matchups is that they could go either way. The Yanks could win anywhere from two to four of these games, but either way, it'll be great.

Yankees Home Record: 23-17
Boston Road Record: 20-22

Probable Starters:

Friday: Derek Lowe (9-3, 4.51) vs. David Wells (10-2, 3.40)

Derek Lowe is on fire of late, and hasn't lost a start since May 11, a span of nine games. During that time, he's really only had one bad start, his last one against the Marlins, when he gave up six runs in seven innings. Lowe still has awful numbers on the road (3-3, 6.85 ERA, 1.83 WHIP), and he hasn't produced against the Yankees in his career (4-7, 5.17 in 31 games). Lowe took a no decision on May 28 at the Stadium. He allowed four runs over six innings.

Wells, like Lowe, hasn't lost a start in a while – dating back to May 24. Wells hasn't had much success against Boston during his career, putting up a 4.97 ERA in 46 games (33 starts), but he picked up a win against the Sox earlier in the year.

Saturday: Ryan Rupe (1-1, 6.30) vs. Roger Clemens (8-5, 3.36)

Rupe has only pitched ten innings this season, and has started just once: a solid outing against Houston on June 13. Rupe is a big pitcher, with a good sinker and effective changeup. He doesn't throw very hard, especially for a man of his size, but he can be tough. He was recently recalled from AAA when ex-Yankee Ramiro Mendoza went down with an injury. In four starts against the Yanks, Rupe is 1-2 with a 9.90 ERA.

Clemens pitched a gem in his last start against the Mets on Saturday, allowing just one run over eight innings to get his 301st career victory. Clemens grabbed his 299th victory against the Sox earlier in the year, but then got rocked his next time facing his former team. Clemens has a 1.95 ERA in his last three starts.

Sunday: John Burkett (6-3, 5.26) vs. Andy Pettitte (9-6, 4.78)

Burkett has quietly put together a five-start streak without taking a loss. During that span, he is 3-0 with a 3.23 ERA. Burkett hasn't faced the Yanks this year, but for his career he is 0-5 with a 10.09 ERA in nine games. Derek Jeter hits .500 against Burkett in 18 at bats.

Pettitte has won four straight starts, despite not pitching particularly well. In his last start, Pettitte was bailed out of a loss by a Ruben Sierra homerun that turned the lefty into a winner. Pettitte has allowed ten runs in each of his last two starts, a trend that cannot continue if he wants to succeed against Boston. For his career, Pettitte owns an 11-4 record with a 2.55 ERA against the Red Sox, and he has already defeated them once in 2003.

Monday: Pedro Martinez (6-2, 2.53) vs. Mike Mussina (10-5, 3.29)

Pedro hasn't lost since May 9, but during that time he has won just three times, despite allowing zero or one run in five of those six starts (one start was a pitch-count shortened start that he couldn't have won however). Due to injury, Pedro has avoided pitching against the Yankees in 2003 so far. But Pedro has nice numbers against Boston's archrival. In 20 starts, Martinez has an 8-7 record with a 2.72 ERA. He also has a particular affinity for getting Jorge Posada out. In his career, Posada is batting just .128 against Pedro, with 26 strikeouts in just 39 at bats.

Mussina was lit up for five runs in 2 2/3 innings in his last start against Baltimore on Tuesday, snapping a three-game win streak. Mussina took a no decision against Boston on May 28, despite pitching eight strong innings. The Moose has a 3.10 ERA and a 16-11 record against the BoSox in his career.

Notes: The Red Sox added RHP Todd Jones to their bullpen on June 2, signing him after he was released by Colorado. In 33 games with the Rockies, Jones had a 1-4 record and a 8.24 ERA … Ramiro Mendoza has a chance of returning from the DL by Saturday to start against the Yankees. His return would either move Rupe to the bullpen or back to AAA … Yankees OF Raul Mondesi ran into a slump during June, hitting just .204. He was scheduled to have a day off on Wednesday, but the rainout ended up giving everyone the day off … Yankees OF Bubba Trammell remains on the Restricted List, and no reason has been released yet, but he is still ineligible to play.

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