The New York Yankees must be growing tired of facing the National League’s best, young right-handed starters.
They’ll try to solve another emerging star righty and end the Houston Astros’ winning streak at seven as the teams open a three-game series.
Houston will send hard-throwing Wade Miller to the mound as it makes its first regular season visit to Yankee Stadium, the fourth straight outstanding young pitcher New York will face.
Even with the excitement surrounding the Yankees’ first appearance at Wrigley Field since 1938, they are probably glad to be out of the Windy City after losing two of three to the Chicago Cubs over the weekend.
Mark Prior led the Cubs to the series win Sunday night, striking out 10 and walking one while allowing three runs over six innings in an 8-7 victory. Prior, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 draft, followed up Kerry Wood’s brilliant outing on Saturday, when Wood helped deny Roger Clemens in his third attempt at 300 wins.
Wood struck out 11 Yankees in 7 2-3 innings of one-run ball in the Cubs’ 5-2 victory.
On Friday, the Yankees were able to get by 22-year-old right-hander Carlos Zambrano to take the series opener 5-3.
While the Yankees rallied Sunday to pull within a run in the ninth inning, they had very limited success against Prior, falling behind 6-0 after two innings.
Andy Pettitte lost for the fifth time in his last six decisions, giving up six hits and six runs as New York fell to 17-24 since an 18-3 start.
“This was a memorable three days,” said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose team went 4-5 on its road trip through Detroit, Cincinnati and Chicago. “It started out all right but the last two games weren’t so good for us.”
Sunday’s defeat dropped the Yankees out of first place in the AL East, a half-game behind the Boston Red Sox. New York has lost two straight series and needed 17 innings against Detroit in the clubs’ June 1 series finale to take two of three from the hapless Tigers.
Now New York will look to get back on track against the hottest team in baseball. Houston completed a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay with a 2-1 victory Sunday.
Tim Redding pitched seven innings and retired his final 18 batters, allowing a run and two hits to lift the Astros.
“As the game went on, I got looser and looser and with each at-bat I was seeing how to approach each hitter,” said Redding, who has won three straight starts. “I felt perfect after the seventh and thought I’d go out at least for the eighth.”
The Astros, unbeaten in interleague play, will be looking to stay ahead of Chicago and St. Louis for the NL Central lead.
STANDINGS: Astros - 1st place, NL Central. Yankees - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, AL East.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Miller (4-6, 4.67 ERA). The right-hander has won three of his last four starts and was outstanding in his last two. He two-hit the Cubs and struck out 14 in a 9-1 victory May 30, then allowed three runs in seven innings with eight strikeouts and two walks in a 6-4 win over Baltimore on Wednesday. Miller will be making his first career appearance against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Mike Mussina (7-4, 3.09 ERA). The veteran right-hander’s struggles continued in his last start, a 6-2 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday, when he allowed four home runs and lasted only 5 1-3 innings. Mussina is 0-4 in his last five outings with a 5.49 ERA, and has lost his last four home starts. He has never faced the Astros.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Jeff Kent, .322 avg. and 46 RBIs; Lance Berkman and Jeff Bagwell, 11 HRs; Berkman, 44 runs; Carl Everett, 6 SBs. Yankees - Alfonso Soriano, .300 avg., 18 HRs, 51 runs and 17 SBs; Soriano and Jorge Posada, 42 RBIs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORD: Astros - 6-0; Yankees - 2-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - OF Berkman is batting .379 (22-for-58) with five HRs and 15 RBIs during a 15-game hitting streak, the longest for the Astros this year. … 1B Bagwell has gone a career-high 121 at-bats without a HR since hitting his 11th of the season May 5 against Pittsburgh. … C Brad Ausmus is 8-for-15 with two doubles against RHP Mussina. Yankees - 1B Jason Giambi had six HRs and 10 RBIs on the road trip. … RF Raul Mondesi is 2-for-5 in his career with two home runs against Astros closer Billy Wagner, who moved into first place on the team’s career saves list Sunday with his 200th. … SS Jeter hit just .220 (9-for-41) during the trip.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 14-15 on the road; Yankees - 13-15 at home.
INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (forearm), 15-day DL. Yankees - IF Nick Johnson (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.