Series Preview: Royals (65-57) @ Yankees (75-47)

The Yankees and the Royals played for the first time this season just last week. This week, the two teams will face each other for the last time during the 2003 regular season. Exactly one week ago, the Royals took two out of three games from the Yankees in Kansas City, including an 11-0 pounding in the third game. This time around the Yankees are on fire, the Royals are floundering and the series is in the Bronx.

The Yanks are coming off a four-game road sweep of the Baltimore Orioles during which they outscored the bird 27-13. Several Yankee hitters caught fire during the long series with Baltimore including Bernie Williams (.375, HR, 4 RBI), Jorge Posada (.385, 3 RBI) and finally, Aaron Boone who drove in six runs including the game-winning homerun Friday night, his first as a Yankee.

With the Yankee bats heating up, all the Bombers have to worry about is their pitching staff. The problem is that that is definitely something to worry about. Several times during the Baltimore series, the Yankee bullpen seemed to fall apart, something that also happened during the first series with the Royals.

The Royals narrowly avoided a sweep at the hand of the Minnesota Twins in their last series. Had the Twins managed to complete the trifecta, the Royals would have just a slim one-game lead in the central. And if the Rangers hadn't decimated the White Sox, the Royals might not even be in first anymore.

Regardless, this is a matchup between two division leaders, and it should be a good one.

Yankees Home Record: 33-24
Royals Road Record: 31-27

Pitching Probables:

Monday: Jose Lima (7-0, 2.96) vs. Jeff Weaver (6-9, 5.78)

Lima time comes to the Bronx. Lima has actually had some success at Yankee Stadium in the past, posting an 0-2 record but a 3.14 ERA in three appearances. But the charismatic pitcher is returning from a stint on the disabled list with a pulled groin and he is a huge question mark for the Royals.

Weaver was the recipient of that 11-0 beat-down last Wednesday. He allowed nine runs on thirteen hits in 6 1/3 innings of work, managing to look pretty poor in the process. At this point, Weaver is fighting for his job. The only measures of security he has are the facts that David Wells is injured and Jose Contreras isn't ready to return yet. But Weaver definitely needs to make a statement in this start, or his rotation spot – and possibly even his roster spot – could be in jeapordy.

Tuesday: Kevin Appier (8-8, 5.21) vs. Andy Pettitte (14-7, 4.23)

Appier has become something of an enigma. Three starts ago the Yankees bulldozed him. In his last start, he held the Bombers scoreless for six innings while picking up a victory. Will the real Kevin Appier please stand up? In two starts since re-joining the Royals, Appier is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA. If he had pitched that way for the Angels, its doubtful that he would have been released.

Pettitte has risen to the forefront of the Yankees rotation and is now tied for third in wins in the American League. Since the Cubs hammered him on June 8, Pettitte has been lights out for the Yankees, rolling off eight straight wins before suffering a tough complete-game loss against the Mariners. In his last 12 outings, Pettitte is 9-1 with a 3.30 ERA. Oh, and did I mention that he is 9-3 with a 3.15 ERA in his career against the Royals?

Wednesday: Jimmy Gobble (2-1, 3.52) vs. Roger Clemens (11-7, 3.57)

Gobble got his chance to shine when Lima hit the DL on August 2. In three starts he has put up solid numbers, but the first two starts came against the hapless Devil Rays. When faced with tougher competition, the Twins, Gobble served up five runs in just three innings of work. If Gobble can't handle the Twins, the Yankees might be able to go to town on the young lefty.

Clemens has been excellent in his last four starts, going 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA. He was brilliant again in his last start against the Orioles, but the bullpen faltered and denied Clemens the victory. The Yankees are just 14-11 when Clemens pitches, an odd statistic considering how well the Rocket has pitched in 2003.

Predictions and Prognostications:

Just like the last series, the Royals are too unpredictable to make any kind of call on a given series against them. None of the pitching matchups seem stacked in either teams favor too much (Lima has much better numbers than Weaver but, come on, he's Jose Lima), and both teams have very good offenses. It's doubtful that either team would manage a sweep of the other, but since this is the predictions space, I'll throw one out there: Yanks win two of three.

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