David Wells looks to lead the Yankees to their sixth straight division title as they open a three-game series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
When the teams met at Yankee Stadium last month, both were in first place and appeared headed for a possible playoff matchup. Chicago easily won the first two games by a combined score of 24-4 before New York rebounded to take the finale.
Since then, the Yankees have kept up their play, winning 14 of their last 16 games. New York will clinch the AL East with its next win or a loss by the Boston Red Sox.
On the other hand, the White Sox have lost eight of their last 11 to fall 5 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. The Twins’ magic number to clinch the division is two.
The Yankees are coming off a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay, capped by a 6-0 win Sunday as Roger Clemens earned his 309th career victory.
Clemens allowed four hits, struck out three and walked one in seven innings. The victory moved him ahead of Hall of Famer Hoss Radbourn into 17th place on the all-time list, two behind Tom Seaver.
Wells will be pitching in Chicago for the first time since his disappointing and injury-plagued season with the White Sox in 2001. He had a disastrous outing against Chicago on Aug. 27, giving up 10 earned runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings as the White Sox went on to an 11-2 win.
“Early in the game, he made some pitches and was getting some outs, he kept the ball down. In that fourth inning, he just couldn’t do it,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
The White Sox are coming off a 10-4 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, which dropped them into a second-place tie with the Royals in the Central. Jon Garland gave up seven runs and six hits in just 2 2-3 innings, matching his shortest start this season.
“With the way we played today, it will be hard to see the Yankees come into town,” White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. “Hopefully, we will play a little better.”
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. White Sox - 2nd place (tied), 5 1/2 GB, AL Central.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Wells (14-7, 4.27 ERA). The burly left-hander gave up five runs and seven hits in eight innings of a 5-3 loss at Baltimore on Wednesday. He is 8-8 with a 4.64 ERA in 32 appearances, including 21 starts, against the White Sox.
WHITE SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Bartolo Colon (14-13, 3.89 ERA). The right-hander beat Wells and Yankees in that 11-2 win on Aug. 27, limiting New York to two runs and nine hits in seven innings. Colon is 8-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 15 career starts against the Yankees.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .325 avg.; Jason Giambi, 39 HRs; Matsui, 105 RBIs; Soriano, 108 runs and 34 SBs. White Sox - Magglio Ordonez, .321 avg.; Frank Thomas, 41 HRs; Carlos Lee, 105 RBIs, 94 runs and 18 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: White Sox, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - 2B Soriano is 14-for-31 with three doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs during the first seven games of the Yankees’ 10-game road trip. … LF Matsui is two doubles shy of Joe DiMaggio’s team rookie record of 44. … CF Bernie Williams is 5-for-11 (.455) with a home run against RHP Colon. White Sox - DH Thomas is hitting .339 (19-for-56) with three homers against LHP Wells. … C Sandy Alomar Jr. is hitting .414 (12-for-29) against Wells. … OF Ordonez went 0-for-2 Sunday. He has not had consecutive hitless games since Aug. 2-3 at Seattle.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 50-27 on the road; White Sox - 49-29 at home.