Phillies-Yankees series could turn into home run derby

Updated: May 21, 2009

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Chase Utley and the Phillies could have a field day at the new Yankee Stadium.

If you enjoy watching baseballs leave the yard, don't miss this weekend's Phillies-Yankees matchup. It has a chance to be an absolutely dynamic series. You have the team leading the American League in home runs hosting the team leading the National League in home runs in the stadium leading the world in home runs.

Both offenses are loaded with firepower and have been leading the way for their respective teams so far this season. Recently both clubs have been playing especially well. The Yankees are red-hot, having won nine straight, while the Phillies have won six of their past seven. So there is momentum on both sides heading into the weekend.

One of the keys to the series for the Yankees is to go after Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in advance of Raul Ibanez coming to the plate. Ibanez has done serious damage with his bat this season, and the best way to limit his impact is to face him with the bases empty. In the other dugout, the Phillies are going to have to recognize that Mark Teixeira has caught fire since Alex Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees. Although A-Rod already has five homers, his batting average is just .171. So although it seems opponents have started giving Teixeira more pitches to hit with A-Rod in the lineup, it might not be the wisest game plan for the Phillies this weekend. Until A-Rod really gets his swing back, opponents should consider going back to pitching Teixeira aggressively on the corners.

Featured Series: Phillies at Yankees
FRIDAY
Phillies (Brett Myers) at Yankees (A.J. Burnett), 7:05 ET
SATURDAY
Phillies (J.A. Happ) at Yankees (Andy Pettitte), 4:10 ET
SUNDAY
Phillies (Cole Hamels) at Yankees (CC Sabathia), 1:05 ET
The pitching matchups are quite interesting in this series as well.

The Friday game is a showdown between two veteran right-handers, with Brett Myers going for the Phillies and A.J. Burnett taking the hill for the Yankees. A lot has been asked of Myers this year because of the slow start from Cole Hamels. Myers (3-2, 4.50 ERA) has responded but has been vulnerable to the long ball. So it will be interesting how he handles the Yankee lineup. Burnett hasn't won since the first two starts of the season and has been prone to allowing big innings. Who will be able to go deeper into the game? That will be an important question for both teams to answer.

Saturday's matchup pits J.A. Happ against Andy Pettitte, a young lefty against a veteran lefty. Happ is getting the start in place of Chan Ho Park and will have his work cut out for him with New York's experienced lineup. It might appear that Pettitte has the advantage due to the perception that the Phillies are vulnerable to left-handed pitching with lefties Utley, Howard and Ibanez at the heart of their batting order. The fact is that the Phillies are 9-3 in games started by left-handed opponents. Ibanez has been arguably the best offseason move in baseball and has shown a special talent for hitting left-handed pitching. He is hitting .341 with four homers against lefties this season.

On Sunday, in what could very well end up being the rubber match of the series, we'll see a showdown of two of the game's best left-handed pitchers in Hamels and CC Sabathia. Both of these guys had shaky starts to their seasons, but they seem to be coming around lately. Hamels will need to rely on his outstanding changeup to keep the Yankees off his fastball and in the ballpark. Sabathia has seemingly recovered the feel for his great slider and curveball, pitches that made him nearly unhittable last season.

Because the starting pitching matchups are so balanced, the games might come down to the bullpen. Mariano Rivera has been nicked a couple of times already this year, while Brad Lidge, after going 41-for-41 in save opportunities a season ago, has struggled for a good part of the season as well. Both teams are going to need the pitching to continue to improve if they hope to not only win this series but to deliver on their expectations of reaching the postseason.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 20 | May 19 | May 18 | May 17 | May 14

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
D. Murphy, Tex2DetJacksonTop 1: 1-0, 1 Outs. None on.
C. Thomas, Det1TexMillwoodBot 1: 0-0, 2 Outs. None on.
G. Dobbs, Phi1CinOwingsTop 3: 3-1, 2 Outs. None on.
C. Granderson, Det11TexMillwoodBot 3: 2-0, 1 Outs. 1 on.
C. Utley, Phi11CinRamirezTop 4: 2-2, 2 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Thursday's homers

ON DECK: FRIDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Mets at Red Sox

Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his first start for the Red Sox in five weeks. And whom does he draw as his opponent? Johan Santana, who is 5-2 with a 1.36 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 53 innings. But Santana has been mortal in his career at Fenway: 1-3 with a 6.89 ERA.

Cubs at Padres

We could have picked another interleague series, particularly a series involving two geographic rivals. But Carlos Zambrano is back on the hill for the Cubs, and he'll face Jake Peavy, who just turned down a trade to the Cubs' crosstown rivals, the White Sox.

Angels at Dodgers

It's the battle for the Los Angeles area. And so far in 2009, all the talk has focused on the Dodgers, thanks largely to Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers are still 17-3 at home and send young Clayton Kershaw to the mound, fresh off his one-hit performance against Florida. Meanwhile, the Angels counter with Jered Weaver, who's third in the AL in ERA (2.59), but has no victories in his past two starts despite giving up only four earned runs in 14 innings.

For the rest of Friday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Fernando Vina, Buck Showalter
12:20 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Fernando Vina, Buck Showalter

BBTN ON THE AIR: SATURDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Fernando Vina, Buck Showalter
12:30 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Fernando Vina, Buck Showalter

BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Dave Winfield, Tim Kurkjian, John Kruk
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Dave Winfield, Tim Kurkjian, John Kruk

BBTN MINUTE: INTERLEAGUE SERIES TO WATCH

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the St. Louis Cardinals' sweep of the Chicago Cubs, a series in which neither team scored more than three runs in a game:

Inside the Series: Cardinals sweep Cubs, 3-0
CHC STL
Runs 2 8
BA .154 *.205
HR 0 3
* = Teams combined to hit .178

WEB GEMS

THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Joe Mauer• All Joe Mauer did was mash a grand slam and a pair of doubles, driving in six runs in the Twins' 20-1 rout of the White Sox. Mauer, hitting .417 with a 1.244 OPS since May 1, now has eight homers in 72 at-bats when he hit only nine homers in 536 at-bats in 2008.
WORST
Bartolo Colon• From the same game, White Sox starter Bartolo Colon lasted only two innings, surrendering eight runs on seven hits, two of them home runs, and two walks. The pitchers who followed Colon (Lance Broadway and Jimmy Gobble) weren't any better, combining to give up 11 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Indians catcher Victor Martinez is hitting .400 on the season, tops in the American League entering Friday. He is also slugging .624, which ranks him sixth in the AL. This is one year after returning in the middle of the season from injury and hitting .278 with a .365 slugging percentage. Martinez has gotten back on track by punishing the fastball, but he still is weak against other pitches.

Opposing pitchers might be catching on to Martinez's struggles with the fastball, because they're throwing him the pitch 59 percent of the time, almost six percent lower than the major league average of 64.7 percent. It will be interesting to see if Martinez can keep up his hot start as pitchers begin to throw him more breaking pitches.

Victor Martinez in 2009
Stats against Fastballs and Non-Fastballs
FB Non-FB
BA .492 .174
SLG .767 .196
Miss Pct. 7.9 20.9
Pitch Pct. 59.0 41.0

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Friday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Friday. Daily Notes