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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | NATIONAL LEAGUE : SAN FRANCISCO
vs. FLORIDA

September 30, 1997|JASON REID

SCHEDULE

Today--San Francisco (Kirk Rueter, 13-6) at Florida (Kevin Brown, 16-8), 1 p.m.

Wednesday--San Francisco (Shawn Estes, 19-5) at Florida (Alex Fernandez, 17-12), 1 p.m.

Friday--Florida (Al Leiter, 11-9) at San Francisco (Wilson Alvarez, 4-3), 5 p.m.

Saturday--(if necessary) Florida at San Francisco, 8 p.m.

Sunday--(if necessary) Florida at San Francisco, 8 p.m.

RECORDS

San Francisco 90-72, Florida 92-70

HEAD TO HEAD

San Francisco won season series, 6-5

GIANTS AT A GLANCE

STARTING LINEUP

*--*

Pos. Player Avg. CF Darryl Hamilton .270 3B Bill Mueller .292 LF Barry Bonds .291 2B Jeff Kent .250 1B J.T. Snow .281 RF Stan Javier .286 SS Jose Vizcaino .266 C Brian Johnson .279 P Kirk Rueter 13-6

*--*

ANALYSIS: The Giants, overhauled by first-year General Manager Brian Sabean, won the National League West title, becoming only the fourth team this century to go from worst to first in successive seasons. San Francisco isn't the league's most talented team, having finished ninth in hitting, 11th in pitching and ninth in defense. But the Giants developed a well deserved reputation--just ask the Dodgers--as being one of the league's toughest clubs, winning 23 games in their final at-bat and 46 after trailing. Bonds hit six home runs in seven games as the Giants pulled away from the Dodgers in the final two weeks of the season. Snow, the former Angel, proved he has the mettle to win and emerged as a team leader. Manager Dusty Baker, one of the game's best, has the luxury of two star closers--Rod Beck and Roberto Hernandez. Baker uses his bench often. Estes finished tied for second in victories, but the starting pitching after him has been a concern.

KEY RESERVES: Outfielder Glenallen Hill (.261), infielder Mark Lewis (.267), outfielder Marvin Benard (.228).

TEAM BATTING: .258, 10th in National League.

TEAM PITCHING: 4.39 ERA, 9th in National League.

MARLINS AT A GLANCE

STARTING LINEUP

*--*

Pos. Player Avg. CF Devon White .245 SS Edgar Renteria .277 RF Gary Sheffield .250 3B Bobby Bonilla .297 LF Moises Alou .292 1B Jeff Conine .242 C Charles Johnson .250 2B Kurt Abbott .274 P Kevin Brown 16-8

*--*

ANALYSIS: Owner Wayne Huizenga spent freely to bring in several high-profile free agents, including Bonilla, Fernandez and Alou. He also gave Sheffield a big extension and hired well respected Manager Jim Leyland. The result was the most victories in the franchise's brief history and a wild-card berth. The Marlins free-agent acquisitions produced big, especially Alou. Fernandez, who grew up in Miami, was one of the major leagues' hottest pitchers during the second half of the season and Bonilla was an offensive force throughout. The Marlins' pitching staff, led by ace Brown, is deep and talented. It's so good that standout rookie starter Livan Hernandez is expected to work out of the bullpen during the playoffs. Hard-throwing closer Robb Nen overcame some problems early in the season and finished with 35 saves. Johnson is the league's best defensive catcher. Leyland has a good bench, and he knows what to do with it.

KEY RESERVES: Outfielders Darren Daulton (.263), Jim Eisenreich (.280) and John Cangelosi (.245).

TEAM BATTING: .259 average, ninth in National League.

TEAM PITCHING: 3.83 ERA, fourth in National League.

KEY TO THE SERIES

Will the Giants' magic continue? Sabean doesn't accept that the Giants are less talented than the other playoff teams--but even Giant players don't argue. The Marlins clearly have the superior talent, the biggest difference being their starting pitching. Leiter and Fernandez would be staff aces on most teams, and Baker has been forced to juggle his rotation for a variety of reasons this season. Still, Bonds is that unique type of player who can take over games. However, he has yet to do it in the playoffs, batting .191 in three postseason appearances with the Pirates. Pitching gives the Marlins the edge, but the Giants have fooled us before.

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