Unbeaten in nine starts since making his return to the majors, Jose Lima will try to continue his amazing comeback when the visiting Kansas City Royals open a three-game series with the New York Yankees.
Lima, an All-Star with Houston in 1999, saw his career take a rapid downturn in the next three seasons, culminating with a dismal year with Detroit last season.
The veteran right-hander went 4-6 with a 7.77 ERA before being released by a team that lost more than 100 games. After pitching in virtual obscurity for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League, Lima was given a second chance to prove himself on the big league level by the Royals in June.
He hasn’t let them down.
Boasting a perfect 7-0 mark with a 2.96 ERA, Lima has led Kansas City to victories in all but one of his nine outings. However, he did suffer a strained right groin in the Royals’ 9-6 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 1, landing him on the disabled list.
Lima threw 65 pitches with no discomfort Friday, clearing the way for him to make the start against the AL East-leading Yankees.
“It’s `Lima Time’ again,” the always-animated hurler shouted after his throwing session. “I’m back to normal, where I was before. It feels good to be back at full speed.”
The Royals come to the Bronx with a three-game lead over the second-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central after salvaging the finale of a three-game set with Sunday’s 5-4 win over Minnesota.
The Yankees completed a four-game sweep of Baltimore with Sunday’s 8-0 victory as Mike Mussina fired a three-hitter. Karim Garcia went 3-for-3 with a homer for New York, which holds a five-game lead over second-place Boston in the East.
The Royals took two of three from the Yankees last week at Kauffman Stadium.
STANDINGS: Royals - 1st place, AL Central. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Lima (7-0, 2.96 ERA). Lima is 7-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 18 career appearances, including 12 starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff Weaver (6-9, 5.78 ERA). Weaver’s enigmatic seasons continued Wednesday as the right-hander was pounded for nine runs and 13 hits over 6 1-3 innings in an 11-0 loss at Kansas City. Weaver, who has shown flashes of brilliance in an otherwise dismal campaign, has allowed at least five runs in each of his last three outings. He is 4-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 13 career appearances, including 12 starts, against the Royals.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Royals - Carlos Beltran and Ibanez, .298 avg.; Beltran, 20 HRs, 76 RBIs and 30 SBs.; Ibanez, 73 runs. Yankees - Derek Jeter, .322 avg.; Jason Giambi, 35 HRs and 93 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 86 runs and 28 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Royals, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - RHP Lima is 4-0 with a 1.11 ERA in four road starts. … OF Mike Sweeney is 14-for-39 (.359) with two homers and eight RBIs in his career against RHP Weaver. … OF Ibanez is 10-for-23 (.435) with four RBIs against Weaver. Yankees - 3B Todd Zeile, who hit .210 in 66 games, was released Sunday as the Yankees called up RHP Jorge De Paula from Triple-A Columbus. Zeile became expendable with the July 31 acquisition of 3B Aaron Boone. … Boone has six RBIs in his last three games after getting only one in his first 12 with New York. … SS Jeter is 3-for-8 with a homer and two RBIs in his career against Lima.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 31-27 on the road; Yankees - 33-24 at home.
INJURIES: Royals - OF Michael Tucker (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Kyle Snyder (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL. Yankees - RHP Jose Contreras (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Gabe White (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.