The last time the Yankees saw the Seattle Mariners, it was mid-May and the Bombers were staggering, trying to figure out how to right a ship flirting with the .500 mark but unable to gain any clear traction.

Much has changed since that series at Safeco Field, when Seattle took two of three from New York. Their next meeting kicks off Monday with both clubs marking territory as bona fide American League Wild Card contenders, so expect there to be just a bit of October in the air as Roger Clemens takes on young phenom Felix Hernandez on Labor Day.

It matters not, Joe Torre said, that the Mariners are limping into town. Seattle lost its ninth straight game on Sunday at the Rogers Centre, and manager John McLaren -- filling the office left behind by Mike Hargrove, who departed since the Yankees last saw Seattle -- desperately needs to get his club back on track.

Teams like to get up for the Yankees; it's Torre's prerogative that his team be "up" for Seattle, especially after losing two of three to the Devil Rays.

"We understand how valuable and urgent it is to win ballgames," Torre said. "We certainly know we have an opponent against us, and they've lost nine in a row. But that certainly doesn't allow us to think they're going to be a pushover."

The Yankees split a four-game series with the Mariners at Yankee Stadium from May 4-7, losing an ugly 15-11 contest to open the season series but running off a pair of wins behind Chien-Ming Wang and Darrell Rasner.

"It doesn't make a difference," said shortstop Derek Jeter. "You can put numbers out the window. You can throw what's happened in the past out the window. We need to play well, they need to play well. We seem to bring the best out in people; hopefully we don't do it these three days. But they have a good team."

It was during that series that Clemens made his [comeback] intentions known, popping up in George Steinbrenner's private box during the seventh-inning stretch on May 6 to announce that the Yankees had "come and got him out of Texas" and that he was on his way back to pitch meaningful games in New York.

Ones like Monday afternoon.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Roger Clemens (6-5, 4.15 ERA)
Clemens battled blisters on his right foot and some arm weariness after his last start, but you couldn't tell much by the results. The 45-year-old Rocket limited the Red Sox to one run and two hits over six innings, ripping off a 4-3 victory over Boston on Wednesday. Clemens is 4-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 10 career starts vs. Seattle as a Yankee but has not faced them for New York since 2003.

SEA: RHP Felix Hernandez (10-7, 4.08 ERA)
Hoping to avoid a sweep by the rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday, Hernandez stumbled. He allowed a career-high 13 hits and six runs over seven-plus innings in an 8-2 loss. He was too efficient in the strike zone, issuing no walks but catching too much of the plate. The Angels had four extra-base hits. The Mariners' 22-year-old right-hander, now in his third season, is 0-2 in two career starts against the Yankees.

Player to watch
Jose Guillen has a double and home run among four hits in nine career at-bats against Clemens.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

Up next
Tuesday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 16-6, 3.79) vs. Mariners (Horacio Ramirez, 8-4, 6.55), 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 2-3, 5.65) vs. Mariners (Jarrod Washburn, 9-12, 4.37), 7:05 p.m. ET
Thursday: Off-day