Series Preview: Yankees (54-33) @ Indians (37-50)

The Yankees kick off their final road trip before the All-Star break with their first trip into Cleveland in 2003. Gone are the days when the Yankees and Indians would duke it out in the playoffs, these days the Indians are bottom-feeders in the AL Central, while the Yankees have risen to prosperity. The Yanks head into Jacobs Field looking to build on the good feelings of their last two games against Boston.

The Indians have been one of the whipping boys of the American League this year. After many years of having a fearsome lineup containing Roberto Alomar, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez – among others – there aren't any thumpers in the 2003 version. Ellis Burks was their main offensive weapon, but he's on the disabled list for the rest of the season. Milton Bradley is their best position player, posting a .346 average so far this season, but he is surrounded by players like Matt Lawton (.248 BA), Brandon Phillips (.211) and Casey Blake (.269) in the lineup.

That being said, the Indians are on something of a roll of late. They haven't lost any of their last three series (against Minnesota, Kansas City and Cincinnati), and just took three of four against the division-leading Twins.

The Yanks have turned things around again after being blown out twice in a row by Boston on Friday and Saturday. Behind two phenomenal pitching performances by Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina, the Yanks have put together a bit of a streak that they'd love to continue.

The Indians are a weak team this season, with nothing resembling a tough lineup, and only one good pitcher in their rotation. Unfortunately, the Yankees have to face that pitcher – Sabathia – spoiling their chances at an almost certain sweep. Regardless, the Yanks have a good chance at sweeping here, but should definitely take two of three.

Yankees Road Record: 29-14
Indians Home Record: 18-22

Probable Pitchers:

Tuesday: Jeff Weaver (4-6, 5.59) vs. Billy Traber (3-5, 4.89)
Weaver is looking to build on his dominant outing against the Mets last weekend. After allowing a first-inning three-run homerun to Jeromy Burnitz, Weaver settled down and cruised through the Mets for the rest of the game. With that performance, Weaver earned his first win since May 15. He's got pretty good numbers against the Tribe, a 5-4 record with a 3.89 ERA, and he holds Matt Lawton to a .174 average in 23 at bats.
Traber has been a pleasant surprise since recently rejoining the Indian's rotation. Two starts ago he shut out the Reds for seven innings. But in his last outing, he was rocked by the Royals for seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings. Traber – a former Mets prospect – has never faced the Yankees.

Wednesday: David Wells (10-3, 3.85) vs. C.C. Sabathia (8-3, 3.27)
The Red Sox hammered Wells in his last start. He allowed a whopping five homeruns and even walked two batters – something he hadn't done all year – as the Sox beat the Yanks 10-3. Fortunately for Wells, he likes pitching against the Indians. In 37 games, including 26 starts, Wells is 17-4 with a 3.42 ERA against them.
Sabathia is one of the few stars on the Indians in 2003. The team is built for the future, and C.C. will be a large part of that future. He is already one of the better pitchers in the league, and he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last five starts. During that span, he is on a four-game win streak, which he will look to increase against the Yanks. But the Bombers have given Sabathia a lot of trouble so far in his career. He owns just a 1-4 record with an 8.74 ERA against New York.

Thursday: Roger Clemens (8-6, 3.75) vs. Jason Davis (7-7, 4.79)
Clemens was also the recipient of a beating at the hands of Boston in his last start. He was tagged for eight runs – seven earned – in 5 1/3 innings. Clemens has almost been alternating between wins and losses so he should be due for one against the Indians. In 42 career starts against Cleveland, Clemens in 23-8 with a 3.17 ERA. The Indians' two best hitters, Bradley and Lawton, are hitting a combined .100 against the Rocket.
Davis lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his last outing against the Twins, allowing four earned runs before being pulled. Before that, he had stifled the Reds for just one run through 7 2/3 innings. Over his last six starts, Davis has alternated wins and losses. This will be the rookie's first start against the Yankees.

Notes: CF Bernie Williams is due back to the Yankees lineup sometime during this road trip, possibly as early as Wednesday. Williams has been out since May after undergoing knee surgery. He is currently on a rehab assignment with the Yankees AA team in Trenton … OF Raul Mondesi remains questionable for the time being with an injured hip … IF Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano are both day-to-day after being hit on the hands by Pedro Martinez on Monday … OF Juan Rivera was sent back to AAA to make room for IF Erick Almonte, who will provide a stopgap in the infield … The Indians' Blake was named AL Player of the Week after hitting .375 with 14 RBI and four homeruns.

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