Series Preview: Red Sox (81-58) @ Yankees (84-54)

It's always quite a party when the Yankees and Red Sox hook up to play some baseball, and this weekend will most certainly be no exception. Boston comes to the House that Ruth Built for a three-game series with the team that swindled Ruth away from them for the last time in the regular season. Just 3 ½ games separate the two teams in the standings so, as usual, this series will have major playoff implications.

The Yankees are having a strange season in that they are a far better road team than they are a home team. This could possibly stem from all the many free agents that they've acquired over the years, as they aren't true "Yankees", or it's simply a statistical anomaly. At any rate, consider the following:

Jorge Posada.237, 13 HR, 30 RBI.300, 14 HR, 50RBI
Bernie Williams.227, 1 HR, 12 RBI.303, 9 HR, 39 RBI
Alfonso Soriano.264, 13 HR, 35 RBI .290, 16 HR, 38 RBI
Jason Giambi.239, 10 HR, 33 RBI.259, 26 HR, 62 RBI

Strange huh? The core of Yankee hitters is performing vastly worse at home than on the road. For completeness' sake, Hideki Matsui is doing about evenly in both situations, and Derek Jeter – who will unfortunately miss this series as he continues to battle a rib cage injury – performs marginally better on the road.

At any rate, the Yankees just dropped two of three against the Blue Jays in Toronto after taking a pair from the Red Sox just last weekend. Boston is on a roll, winning a makeup game against the Phillies in dramatic fashion, then sweeping a quick, two-game series against the White Sox (who, by the way, made the Yanks look awful not too long ago).

The two teams lock horns for the final time in 2003's regular season, but if Seattle maintains its current trend of ineptitude then the Yanks and Sox could end up meeting each other in the playoffs. For now, we'll have to settle for a good old regular-season showdown in the Bronx.

Yankees Home Record: 39-28
Boston Road Record: 35-34

Probable Pitchers:

Friday: Pedro Martinez (10-4, 2.52) vs. Andy Pettitte (17-7, 4.01)

The Yankees always seem to be the proverbial thorn in Pedro's side. He always manages to pitch well enough to beat the Bombers, but rarely actually earns a victory. This wasn't the case the last time the Yankees faced the great Pedro. New York touched him up for five runs in just four innings, including a homerun by Jorge Posada – who is normally Pedro's plaything.

Pettitte is on a four-game win streak of his own. With one more victory, he will tie Esteban Loaiza and Roy Halladay for the AL lead. He defeated the Red Sox in his last start despite a shaky start by lasting seven strong innings.

Saturday: Tim Wakefield (9-6, 4.47) vs. Roger Clemens (13-8, 4.01)

Wakefield is winless in any of his last five starts dating back to August 3. He took a loss to the Yankees in his last start when he lasted six innings and allowed six runs on eight hits. The knuckleball specialist has been somewhat ineffective in 2003 after posting an insane 2.81 ERA in 2002. He has been particularly unsuccessful against the Yankees in his career, going 5-8 with a 5.44 ERA.

For Clemens, this will probably be the last time he ever faces his former team. The Rocket is in a bit of a slide lately, posting an 8.14 ERA in his last three starts despite winning a pair of them. He scraped out a win against Boston in his last start, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing four runs.

Sunday: Jeff Suppan (1-1, 6.34) vs. David Wells (12-6, 4.45)

Suppan has not been what the Red Sox were expecting when they acquired him from the Pirates at the trade deadline. Suppan has posted the above numbers in five starts, and opponents are batting a lofty .302 against him since switching leagues. In six games against the Yanks in his career, Suppan is 0-4 with a 6.90 ERA.

Wells hasn't won a start since July 19, and I'm getting pretty tired of saying that. His back is clearly not in good shape, and his ERA over his last four starts is at 9.69. He's dropped his last three starts, including a shellacking by the White Sox on August 27. Wells needs to get his act together, maybe shut it down and rest up for the postseason, because at this point he's doing more harm than good.

Predictions and Prognostications:

The pitching matchups seem to favor the Yankees in this series but with these two offenses in the park balls will probably be flying everywhere, possibly negating the pitchers altogether. I don't see all three of these games turning into shootouts, as the Pedro/Pettitte matchup could be a nice pitcher's duel, but it is certainly a good possibility. The Yankees need to pull out a series victory here to maintain a healthy-sized lead over the Sox in the standings, and when the Yankees need to do something they tend to go and do it. Yanks take two of three, if not more.

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