The New York Yankees know their current difficult 10-game road trip will go a long way towards determining whether they gain their 14th straight postseason berth.
The middle stop on the Yankees' trip begins Friday with the opener of a three-game series against the major league-leading Los Angeles Angels.New York (63-52) is 5 1/2 games behind AL East leader Tampa Bay and three games back of Boston for the wild card. This trip got off to a difficult start when the Yankees lost the first two games in Texas, but they bounced back to earn a split of that four-game set.The swing concludes nest week with three games at fellow playoff hopeful Minnesota, but Los Angeles (71-43) should pose the biggest challenge for New York. The Angels have given the Yankees plenty of problems over the years, eliminating them from the playoffs in 2002 and 2005, and capturing the last four season series.The teams split four games last weekend in the Bronx, but the Angels have won nine of the last 13 meetings in Anaheim.The Yankees expect to have catcher Ivan Rodriguez back in the lineup Friday. He sat out Thursday's 3-0 victory at Texas with a bruised right knee, suffered in a collision at the plate during Wednesday's 5-3 win. Rodriguez is 3-for-14 in his first six games with New York, which acquired him from Detroit on July 30.Reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, meanwhile, went 0-for-14 in the Texas series to drop his batting average 12 points to .312.Friday's pitching matchup features two Southern California natives who starred in college ball locally.Jered Weaver (9-9, 4.37 ERA) makes his second straight start against New York after he allowed six runs over five innings in an 8-2 loss Saturday. The right-hander, who lost for the first time in three career outings against the Yankees, is eager for a rematch."It's obviously a big series," Weaver told the Angels' official Web site. "Everyone loves watching the Yankees play. It will be a lot of Angels fans and Yankees fans, so it should be a good time. Obviously, the environment is a bit greater because the Yankees are who they are, but I'm looking forward to it."Weaver is a native of the San Fernando Valley suburb of Northridge, and pitched for three years at Long Beach State.The Yankees will recall right-hander Ian Kennedy (0-3, 7.41) from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make his first start in more than two months. Kennedy began the season in the rotation, but was hit hard right from the start and sent to Scranton on May 4. He returned on May 15 and went 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in three starts before being placed on the 15-day disabled list May 28 with a muscle strain near his right rib cage and right shoulder bursitis.Kennedy, a 23-year-old Los Angeles native who pitched at USC, has never faced the Angels.Weaver and Kennedy faced each other once in college on Feb. 13, 2004. Weaver, then a junior at Long Beach State, struck out 14 and gave up one run in seven innings to earn a 3-1 win. Kennedy -- a freshman -- allowed one run and struck out five in eight innings, and did not get a decision in the Trojans' season opener.