This three-game series between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies was always going to be intriguing. The pitching matchup in Tuesday night's opener at Yankee Stadium makes it even more so.
Both teams will have their aces on the mound in this rematch of last year's World Series when the Yankees turn to CC Sabathia and the Phillies counter with a pitcher very familiar to New York in Roy Halladay.The Yankees (40-23) ended a nine-year championship drought by beating the defending champion Phillies (32-29) in six games last year. New York prevailed despite being outhomered 11-6, with Chase Utley hitting five homers for Philadelphia.Both teams made some key changes, with New York choosing not to re-sign World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and outfielder Johnny Damon. The biggest move was made by Philadelphia, which dealt Cliff Lee and acquired Halladay (8-4, 1.96 ERA) in a four-team deal in the offseason.Halladay has been outstanding, pitching a major league-leading five complete games. He's dominated the Yankees, going 18-6 with a 2.81 ERA in 35 starts, including 8-1 with a 2.42 ERA in his last 10.The right-hander has limited major league batting leader Robinson Cano to a .208 average while Yankee captain Derek Jeter is a .242 hitter with 24 strikeouts -- his most against any pitcher."Obviously, he's been a great pitcher for a long time and he's pitching great in the National League," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com. "I don't think a whole lot has changed about him; we just don't see him quite as much."This will mark the third time that Halladay and Sabathia (6-3, 4.01) have met. They split the first two meetings, with Halladay posting a 3.29 ERA and Sabathia a 3.07 ERA.The Yankees ace went 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA in last year's World Series, allowing three homers to Utley. Sabathia is 1/3 with a 4.74 ERA in six career outings against the Phillies, including three in the postseason.The left-hander's last four victories have come against Baltimore, which he's beaten in each of his last two starts. He gave up two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 road win Wednesday.This will likely be the first time in a month that Sabathia will be caught by Jorge Posada. The veteran catcher, who broke his foot May 19, made his first start behind the plate since the injury Sunday, hitting a grand slam for the second consecutive game in a 9-5 win over Houston."To be in the position to hit two grand slams is just amazing," Posada said. "A lot of players were telling me where to go and stuff like that, but it was fun to be back there."New York has won eight straight at home to move into a first-place tie atop the AL East with Tampa Bay.It's been a different story for the two-time defending NL champions, who find themselves in third place in their division as losers of 14 of 20. The Phillies are last in the majors with 48 runs scored since May 22.Utley has not been able to recapture his World Series form with a .153 average in that span and no homers since May 20. He's not the only Phillie struggling with Ryan Howard hitting .230 and Jayson Werth at .164 in the team's last 20 games.The poor play has taken a bit of the swagger away for the Phillies after manager Charlie Manuel said during spring training that he wanted a World Series rematch with the Yankees."We've got to get there," Manuel told the Phillies' website. "I said when the World Series was over and I told our guys in spring training -- we want to get to the World Series. If we play the Yankees, that will be fine with me."The Yankees will receive a boost if Alex Rodriguez returns after missing all three games against the Astros with a sore right hip. Girardi believes Rodriguez may play Tuesday.