Series Preview: Orioles (47-50) @ Yankees (61-37)

The threat of rain will hang over New York for the next few days, but the Yankees and Orioles will try their best to finally get some games in. The two division rivals have faced each other just twice this season due to scheduling and a rain out. This time they hook up for a short two-game series in the Bronx, where the Orioles bring a six-game win streak to the House That Ruth Built.

The last time these two teams met was on June 30 and July 1 when a three-game series was shortened to two by rain. The Yankees took the first game on Ruben Sierra's three-run homerun, and the Orioles won the second game by knocking around former teammate Mike Mussina.

The Yankees are a better team since that series however. The recent additions of Armando Benitez and Jesse Orosco have solidified the bullpen, and the return of Bernie Williams has bolstered the lineup. Baltimore may be a hot team, but they still aren't a good team. Their best player, Melvin Mora, is in a terrible slump over the last 10 days, batting just .207. He has also missed the team's last two games after being hit in the face by a pitch by the Angels' John Lackey.

Yet somehow the Orioles haven't lost since the All-Star break and have averaged 6.3 runs per game during that time. Giving the birds the benefit of the doubt here, they could manage a split. But the Yankees are definitely better team and are more than able to pull out a sweep.

Yankees Home Record: 29-20
Orioles Road Record: 20-26

Probable Pitchers:

Wednesday: Rick Helling (6-6, 5.47) vs. Andy Pettitte (11-6, 4.66)

Helling has actually been rather good during his last few outings. Most recently, he allowed just two runs to each of Seattle and Anaheim while lasting 6 and 6 2/3 innings respectively. Helling hasn't faced the Yankees since 2001, and that was a whole different team. In 22 at bats each, Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi are hitting .318 and .364 respectively against Helling.

Pettitte hasn't lost a game since June 14, and he's won six of those starts. He faced Baltimore in the first game of that series and didn't pitch well, allowing 10 hits and four runs in six innings. Sierra's homerun bailed him out that time, but Pettitte can't always count on the Yankees offense.

Thursday: Sidney Ponson (13-5, 3.67) vs. Roger Clemens (9-6, 3.79)

Ponson is the second-winningest pitcher in the American League this season, just one victory behind Toronto's Roy Halladay. Ponson has won his last three starts against Toronto, Seattle and Anaheim, posting a 2.32 ERA in the process. Ponson's last loss came against the Yankees – and Pettitte – on June 30, when he allowed five runs on 10 hits in six innings. Giving up hits has been Ponson's weakness all season long. He has given up 134 knocks in just 132 1/3 innings.

It's been a slow climb up the career wins list for Clemens this year. His victories have come sporadically and he often gets foiled by a lack of run support. Nevertheless, Clemens has still dominated this season. He leads the league in strikeouts and is ninth in opponent's batting average. In his last start, he picked up a win against the Indians, lasting six innings and giving up four runs.

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