Series Preview: Yankees (63-40) @ Angels (52-52)

This season, the defending World Champion Angels haven't looked anything like the team that won it all in 2002. The Halos have been struggling to maintain a .500 record, are more than ten games out of first place in the AL West, and are ten games behind Boston for the Wild Card. It looks like they won't get the chance to repeat if they can't even make it to the postseason. In any case, the Yankees are in town for a three-game series that will be a rematch of last year's ALDS.

Since the All-Star break, the Angels have continued their woes. Their second-half record is just 3-9 so far, and it isn't like they've been playing tough teams. They were swept by the Orioles in a four-game series right after the break, then after splitting two-game sets with the Devil Rays and Rangers, they dropped three of four to the offensively-challenged Athletics. The combined winning percentages of those four teams is just .455, and without Oakland it's a measly .416. The Yankees bring the third-best record in baseball to Anaheim, which means potentially good things for Yankee fans.

The biggest of Anaheim's problems is completely erratic starting pitching. Ramon Ortiz leads all starters with a 4.44 ERA, and two Angels pitchers have ERAs over 5 (Appier and Sele). Overall their starting pitching ERA is 4.89, which is a complete shame due to their excellent bullpen that has compiled a 2.75 ERA for the season. But without a lead to maintain, the bullpen becomes all too useless.

Fortunately for the Angels, their offense is very good. Garrett Anderson has broken through to the next level, winning the Homerun Derby and the All-Star Game MVP awards recently. Their lineup probably won't instill fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers in the same way that Boston's or the Yankees' does, but this lineup is all about hustle, timing and manufacturing runs – something the Yankees would do well to learn from.

For the Yankees, it was a good thing they had the day off on Monday after that intense series with the Red Sox. All three games were decided in the late innings and by the team's bullpens. Neither team had a starter pick up a win or a loss, but the Yankees dropped two of the three games. This will be the second series for the Yankees in a three-series road trip. Their next stop is at Oakland for the weekend, but first they will have to deal with the pesky Angels.

Yankees Road Record: 33-19
Angels Home Record: 30-23

Probable Pitchers:

Tuesday: Andy Pettitte (12-6, 4.55) vs. Kevin Appier (7-6, 5.28)

Pettitte is still on that winning streak of his. After notching a victory against the Orioles in his last outing, he has now gone 7-0 over his last eight appearances. He allowed just two runs on five hits against Baltimore in that start, while striking out six batters. The last time he faced Anaheim, they beat him around to the tune of six runs in just five innings. Over his career however, Pettitte is 10-6 with a 3.89 ERA against the Angels.

Last season, when Appier came over to Anaheim from the Mets for Mo Vaughn, he was a rock for them down the stretch. This season, he's just been rocked. He was absolutely hammered two starts ago by the Orioles, allowing seven hits and seven runs in just 1 1/3 innings. He bounced back nicely by winning his next start against Texas in good fashion, but Appier has been inconsistent at best thus far in 2003.

Wednesday: Roger Clemens (9-7, 4.01) vs. John Lackey (7-9, 4.96)

Clemens has been an Angel-killer throughout his career. He owns a 24-7 record against them with a nifty 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP ratio against the boys from California. He continued his dominance over them in their first meeting this season, when he pitched eight innings and allowed just two runs on six hits. Clemens lost to the Orioles in his last appearance, giving up five runs in four innings, but if ever he had a team he'd like to bounce back against, it looks like it's the Angels.

Lackey has faced the Yankees twice this season, winning one and losing one. Combined, he's allowed eight earned runs against them in just nine innings (8.00 ERA). Over his last six starts however, Lackey has looked like a different pitcher while posting a 2.85 ERA and a 3-2 record. In his last outing, he shut out the A's for 6 2/3 innings, but didn't figure in the decision.

Thursday: David Wells (12-3, 3.80) vs. Aaron Sele (6-8, 5.17)

There's a slim chance that Wells could miss this start with a sciatic nerve problem in his back. The ailment was causing Wells pain in his previous start, but it looks like he should be able to go. Boomer was completely off in his last start, walking an unheard of (for him) five batters in the game. But he managed somehow to keep the Yankees within striking distance, and sure enough they won by a final score of 4-3 and they beat Pedro Martinez in the process. Wells was largely unsuccessful in his last start against the Angels, allowing 11 hits in 7 2/3 innings en route to a loss, and he has a 16-11 record with a 5.38 ERA against them in his career.

After being one of the more dependable pitchers in the major leagues for four seasons, Sele's career has taken a turn for the worse following a serious injury. In his two seasons as an Angel, Sele has put up a 4.97 ERA while missing significant time due to injuries and being in the minors. Sele also has trouble against the Yankees. Despite his excellent .587 career winning percentage, he is just 5-10 against the Bombers, with a 4.84 ERA. His problems manifest particularly in the postseason, where the Yankees have beat him like a drum. The last time Sele faced the Yanks, he allowed eight runs on nine hits in just 2 2/3 innings of work.

Predictions And Prognostications: Every pitching matchup in this series favors the Yankees in some form or another. With a little luck, the Yanks could pull out a sweep on the road. That being said, the Angels always pick up their game to face New York and they're still a better team than their record indicates. The Yankees should win this series, but they're going to have to fight for it.

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