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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE

New York Yankees Vs. Texas Rangers

September 29, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

SCHEDULE

Tonight: Texas (Todd Stottlemyre, 5-3) at New York (David Wells, 18-4), 5 p.m., Channel 11.

Wednesday: Texas (Rick Helling, 20-7) at New York (Andy Pettitte, 16-11), 5 p.m., Channel 4.

Friday: New York (David Cone, 20-7) at Texas (Aaron Sele, 19-11), 5 p.m., Channel 4.

Saturday: New York (Orlando Hernandez, 12-4) at Texas (John Burkett, 9-13), TBA, if necessary.

Sunday: Texas (Stottlemyre) at New York (Wells), TBA, if necessary.

YANKEES AT A GLANCE

Lineup

*--*

2B Chuck Knoblauch .265 SS Derek Jeter .324 RF Paul O'Neill .317 CF Bernie Williams .339 1B Tino Martinez .281 DH Chili Davis .291 C Jorge Posada .268 LF Chad Curtis .243 3B Scott Brosius .300

*--*

Analysis: Manager Joe Torre believes the only way the Yankees will be vulnerable is if they don't pitch well, and there is at least some reason to be concerned about Wells, who had a tremendous season but has had mixed results against Texas. The left-hander helped blow a nine-run lead when he gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings of an eventual 15-13 Yankee win in Texas on May 6, and he threw a six-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Rangers in New York on Aug. 21. How balanced are the Yankees? They have eight players with 15 or more home runs, and their 207 homers are the most of any team in major league history without having a single player with at least 30.

Key Reserves: Catcher Joe Girardi (.276), outfielder Tim Raines (.290, 47 RBIs), outfielder Darryl Strawberry (.247, 24 homers, 57 RBIs).

Team batting: .288, second in the American League.

Team pitching: 3.82 ERA, first in the American League

RANGERS AT A GLANCE

Lineup

*--*

2B Mark McLemore .247 CF Roberto Kelly .323 LF Rusty Greer .306 RF Juan Gonzalez .318 1B Will Clark .305 C Ivan Rodriguez .321 3B Todd Zeile .261 DH Mike Simms .296 SS Royce Clayton .285

*--*

Analysis: With a 399-foot power alley in left-center field and a short porch in right, managers prefer to start left-handed pitchers in Yankee Stadium. That's one reason Wells and Pettitte will pitch the first two games for New York. But the Yankees may be playing right into the Rangers' hands. Left-handed starters were 12-23 with a 6.49 ERA against Texas and the Rangers led the major leagues with a .316 average against lefties. Gonzalez is the force in a dangerous Ranger lineup, with 45 homers and a league-leading 157 RBIs. The Rangers are also peaking, having won 13 of their last 19 games, and pitching has been more responsible than offense. Key Reserves: Outfielder Tom Goodwin (.290, 38 stolen bases), infielder Luis Alicea (.274), first baseman-DH Lee Stevens (.265, 20 homers, 59 RBIs).

Team batting: .289, first in the American League.

Team pitching: 4.99 ERA, 12th in the American League.

KEYS TO THE SERIES

Ranger Manager Johnny Oates knows the secret to beating the Yankees. "You need a lot of luck," he said. Stottlemyre, Helling and Sele need to contain the Yankees, but their left-handed relievers, Tony Fossas and Eric Gunderson, must retire O'Neill and Martinez in late-inning situations to hand closer John Wetteland a lead. Offensively, the Rangers must continue to abuse left-handed pitching. The Yankees will be in good shape if they can limit Gonzalez's RBI opportunities. The slugger hit .438 with five homers the 1996 division series against New York, which the Yankees won, three games to one.

Records: Yankees 114-48, Rangers 88-74.

Head to Head: Yankees won season series, 8-3.

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