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World Series / New York vs. Florida

October 18, 2003|Bill Shaikin;Jason Reid

YANKEES' PROJECTED LINEUP

ANALYSIS

*--* POS PLAYER AVG HR RBI 2B ALFONSO SORIANO 290 38 91 SS DEREK JETER 324 10 52 DH JASON GIAMBI 250 41 107 CF BERNIE WILLIAMS 263 15 64 C JORGE POSADA 281 30 101 LF HIDEKI MATSUI 287 16 106 1B NICK JOHNSON 284 14 47 3B AARON BOONE 254 6 31 RF KARIM GARCIA 295 6 20

*--*

* Strengths: Jason Giambi slumbered through the division series and most of the league championship series, but he enters the World Series with three home runs in his last two games. Closer Mariano Rivera, the premier postseason closer in major league history, routinely goes two innings for an October save. Hideki Matsui batted .308 and Jorge Posada .296 in the championship series, with Posada driving in six runs in seven games. Derek Jeter always comes up big in October, and he did in the Red Sox with outstanding defense. The Yankee starters pitched well in the first round and most of the second round, but the final three starts against Boston -- Mike Mussina in Game 5, Andy Pettitte in Game 6 and Roger Clemens in Game 7 -- were shaky.

* Weaknesses: The Yankees remain prone to the strikeout, most notably Alfonso Soriano, who struck out 11 times against the Red Sox and was dropped from first to ninth in the batting order for one game. Posada and Matsui were the only players to bat above .250 against Boston, and now the Yankees must face pitchers with whom they are unfamiliar. The bridge between the starters and Rivera remains awfully shaky, with Jose Contreras, Felix Heredia, Jeff Nelson and Gabe White combining to give up five runs, and the lead, in the final three innings of Game 6. The Yankee defense is no match for that of the Marlins, particularly up the middle, and no American League team challenged Posada on the bases the way the Florida will.

* Key Reserves: OF/DH Ruben Sierra (.282, 6, 31), IF Enrique Wilson (.230, 3, 15).

* Team Batting: .271 (fifth in league).

* Team Pitching: 4.02 ERA (third in league).

MARLINS' PROJECTED LINEUP

*--* POS PLAYER AVG HR RBI CF JUAN PIERRE 305 1 41 2B LUIS CASTILLO 314 6 39 C IVAN RODRIGUEZ 297 16 85 LF MIGUEL CABRERA 268 12 62 1B DERREK LEE 271 31 92 3B MIKE LOWELL 277 32 105 DH JEFF CONINE 282 20 95 RF JUAN ENCARNACION 270 19 94 SS ALEX GONZALEZ 256 6 18

*--*

ANALYSIS

* Strengths: Fearlessness, a productive batting order and Ivan Rodriguez's leadership. The wild-card Marlins proved they could produce in the clutch while eliminating San Francisco in the division series and rebounding from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven championship series, winning three in a row and defeating Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in taking the final two games at Wrigley Field. The Marlins shocked the Cubs en route to their second National League pennant since 1997, overcoming a 3-0 eighth-inning deficit against Prior in Game 6 and pounding Wood for seven hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings of Game 7. Speedsters Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo pressure opponents at the top of the order, providing opportunities for Rodriguez and others. The unwanted free agent of last winter has proven he has a lot left, having been selected the most valuable player of the league championship series after driving in a record 10 runs to give him a club-record 16 in the postseason. Rodriguez has been phenomenal with runners in scoring position (.529) and scoring position with two out (.667). Rookie infielder/outfielder Miguel Cabrera (.318, three home runs, nine runs batted in) is even better than advertised, and second-year starter Josh Beckett (2.73 earned-run average and 28 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings) is a rising star.

* Weaknesses: The starters behind Beckett have struggled in the postseason and were atrocious against the Cubs. The group has a 6.28 ERA in the playoffs. Brad Penny and regular-season rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis are at 16.50 and 12.91, respectively. In contrast, the mediocre bullpen has a 3.15 ERA. Cabrera has played well defensively in right in his first experience there, but he's playing out of position.

* Key Reserves: RF Juan Encarnacion (.270, 19 HR, 94 RBIs), OF Todd Hollandsworth (.254, 3 HR, 20 RBIs), SS Mike Mordecai (.213, 2 HR, 8 RBI), 2B Andy Fox (.194, 0 HR, 8 RBIs).

* Team Batting: .266 (Fifth in NL).

* Team Pitching: 4.04 (Seventh in NL).

KEYS TO THE SERIES

The young Marlins have thrived in hostile territory in October -- but now they go to Yankee Stadium. How they respond on baseball's biggest stage will set the tone for the World Series. Handling Rodriguez is paramount for the Yankees to take control from the outset. Hollandsworth, the 1996 NL rookie of the year with the Dodgers, has four pinch-hits in six at-bats, and the Marlins are batting .375 in those situations, but will the hot pinch-hitting continue?

*

NEW YORK vs. FLORIDA

Best-of-seven (* if necessary; all times Pacific) TV: Channel 11

* Game 1: Today -- Florida (Penny, 1-1, 14-10) at

New York (Wells, 2-0, 15-7), 5 p.m.

* Game 2: Sunday -- Florida (Redman, 0-0, 14-9) at New York, 5 p.m.

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