Series Preview: Yankees (22-15) @ Angels (25-13)

The banged-up Angels continue to roll, and are still the holders of baseball's best record. After dropping an earlier series with the Yankees a week ago, the Halos now play host to the boys from the Bronx in a best-of-three series. Bad news for the Angels though, their injuries are getting worse before they get better.

Third baseman Troy Glaus could miss the rest of the season now that he needs shoulder surgery.  With Glaus gone, Garrett Anderson still on the DL and Tim Salmon not progressing, the only bopper left to protect big Vlad is Jose Guillen.  Guillen's a nice hitter and all, but he's not really anything special (though you wouldn't know it from his series against the Yanks.)  Glaus was leading the AL in home runs with 11, looks like his total will stay there for a good while.

After losing two of three to the Yanks, the Angels rebounded with a series victory over the Orioles.  They were shut out by a suddenly-ace-looking Sidney Ponson on Sunday though, and both teams scored 17 runs in the series.  The Angels are still scoring in bunches, thanks to the unlikely contributions from guys like Chone (pronounced "Shawn" amazingly enough) Figgins - hitting .330 with 12 RBI and nine steals -and rookie Casey Kotchman - hitting .348 and playing slick defense at first.  With all the bruises, the Angels have to give out at some point, but it doesn't look like that point is soon.  They could ride that bullpen - even if Troy Percival isn't 100% - for a long, long time.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are still doing their thing.  Suddenly, Bernie Williams - hitting .400 in the last week with a pair of dingers - is the big story, so people can be distracted for a little while longer from the fact that Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield have been awful and boring, respectively.  Another huge question is if Jorge Posada is ready.  Latest word was that he was still experiencing headaches as a result from his broken nose.  But the Yanks sent down backup catcher Dave Parrish, so Posada might have to play.  Jorgey leads the team in batting average (.302) and RBI (23).  And don't look now, but Alex Rodriguez is finally looking like a reigning MVP.  He's now hitting .290 with a team-best nine home runs, 20 RBI and a surprising six stolen bases.  Let the good times roll.

Yankees Road Record:  9-8        Last 10: 6-4
Angels Home Record: 11-5         Last 10: 7-3

Season Series: Yankees lead, 2-1

Key Matchups:  Guillen vs. Vazquez: 5/11, home run... Guerrero vs. Lieber: 7/28, seven strike outs... B. Molina vs. Mussina: 4/10, two doubles...  Williams vs. Sele: 18/58 (.310), eight extra-base hits... Rodriguez vs. Sele: 17/45 (.378), three home runs... Giambi vs. Lackey: 7/13, home run... Williams vs. Lackey: 5/12, home run... Rodriguez vs. Colon: 13/35 (.371), three home runs... Posada vs. Colon: 2/15, home run.

Probable Pitchers:

Tuesday: Javier Vazquez (3-4, 4.10) vs. Aaron Sele (2-0, 3.62)
Vazquez has looked a little too ordinary for such an extraordinary pitcher.  He could use a good game to get himself righted.  The Angels touched him up for five homers in 7.1 innings the last time Javy was on the mound.

Sele's looking like the guy the Angels were looking for last year, and he's definitely justifying his rotation spot so far.  He curbed his terrible history against the Yankees in his last start, holding them to two runs in six innings and grabbing a win.

Wednesday: Jon Lieber (2-1, 5.14) vs. John Lackey (3-4, 4.80)
Lieber's quickly becoming a fan favorite for his quick and efficient style of pitching.  He needed just 101 pitches to go eight innings and beat the Angels in his last start.  He still hasn't walked a batter in 21 innings and counting.

The pitching matchups in this series are all so mundane.  Lackey's boringly average most of the time, and he got roughed up by the Yanks in his last start.  He's only about 11 days removed from throwing a shut out against the Devil Rays, at least.

Thursday: Mike Mussina (4-4, 5.20) vs. Bartolo Colon (4-2, 4.59)
Mussina regressed to his early season form again and, frankly, I'm getting tired of it.  11 hits in six innings just doesn't ring "Moose" for me.  He's got a tidy three-game win streak going on, so that's something.

Last year, this was a matchup of aces.  This year, it's aces that have been anything but.  Colon's been unremarkable since his first few starts of 2004.  He gave up five runs in five innings against Baltimore in his last go, but he hasn't lost a game since the end of April.

Predictions and Prognostications: These pitching matchups are just so uninteresting, on paper at least.  If Sele is actually good (probably not) and Vazquez gets his act together (hopefully), that could be an interesting duel.  Same for Thursday's match.  But I'm going to look for the bullpens to play a big role in this series.  Yanks still haven't dropped a series in a while, and Bernie and ARod look like they can carry the team right now, so I'll go for the old two of three thing.

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