Winless in his last seven starts, Wells will try to help the Yankees avert an embarrassing three-game sweep to the hard-charging Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Boston has outscored New York 20-3 in taking the first two games of the series. More importantly, the Red Sox have pulled to within 1 1/2 games of first-place New York in the AL East—a division race the Yankees appeared to have a stanglehold on when they left Fenway Park with a 5 1/2 -game bulge last weekend.
“You ride through the tough times and, hopefully, you make them end as quickly as possible,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said after Saturday’s 11-0 loss. “We really have to look at the big picture. People still have to come and get us.”
No one has had it as rough as Wells lately. The burly left-hander has not won since beating Cleveland on July 19, and has lost each of his last three starts, including Monday’s 8-1 setback at Toronto.
Wells gave up five runs and nine hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking one. He has been pounded for 19 runs over 19 1-3 innings in his last three starts.
Making matters worse, Wells has been mired in controversy for much of the two weeks after a disagreement between himself, Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre regarding his between-star work habits.
“He’ll start Sunday,” Torre insisted after Wells’ latest loss. “I thought he did a lot better job of getting the ball down today. Mel felt the same way.”
“Our offense is scary,” said Boston outfielder Johnny Damon, who had two hits and drove in two runs. “It’s someone different every day.”
STANDINGS: Red Sox - 2nd place, 1 1/2 GB, AL East. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff Suppan (1-1, 6.34 ERA). Acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh to bolster the rotation, Suppan has struggled mightily with the Red Sox. He has just one win in six starts after winning his last five decisions with the Pirates, yielding four or more runs in four of those outings. On Monday, Suppan was spared a loss as Boston rallied for a 13-9 win in Philadelphia. However, the right-hander surrendered six runs and 10 hits over six innings.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Wells (12-6, 4.45 ERA). Wells is 13-20—his most losses against any opponent—with a 5.11 ERA in 48 career appearances, including 35 starts, against the Red Sox.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Red Sox - Bill Mueller, .320 avg.; Manny Ramirez, 31 HRs; Nomar Garciaparra, 94 RBIs and 110 runs; Damon, 26 SBs. Yankees - Derek Jeter, .322 avg.; Jason Giambi, 36 HRs and 95 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 96 runs and 31 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 9-9.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Red Sox - On Saturday, the Red Sox eclipsed their previous most-lopsided shutout win in New York, a 10-0 victory on April 23, 1919, in the season opener. That was the same season Babe Ruth led the Red Sox in homers and RBIs. … Boston has won five straight on the road. … OF Damon is 19-for-55 (.345) with five doubles and three RBIs in his career against LHP Wells. Yankees - SS Jeter, who hasn’t played since last Sunday in Boston due to a rib injury, intends to take a full round of batting practice prior to the series finale and hopes to play. … Wells, who boasts a 41-18 career mark at Yankee Stadium, is just 5-5 with a 5.82 ERA in 13 home starts this year. … OF Bernie Williams is 5-for-12 (.417) with two homers and seven RBIs in his career against RHP Suppan.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Sox - 37-34 on the road; Yankees - 39-30 at home.
INJURIES: Red Sox - OF-DH Jeremy Giambi (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Bob Howry (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Robert Person (hip), 60-day DL. Yankees - OF David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.