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Cubs Rather Than Yankees Get Prime-Time Slot in East

September 30, 2003|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Now that ESPN is back in the baseball playoff picture, it won't be so tough to find first-round games on TV.

Two years ago, first-round games were spread out among Fox, Fox Sports Net, Fox Family and FX. Last season, games were on Fox and ABC Family, a station many sports fans were unfamiliar with and had trouble finding.

Today, the playoffs open on baseball's regular-season networks, with two games on ESPN and one on Fox.

And for the first time since it began televising the playoffs in 1997, Fox will feature a team other than the New York Yankees on the first day of postseason play.

Fox, which had the option of choosing which game it would show in prime time in the East tonight, picked the Chicago Cubs at Atlanta. That game will follow a 15-minute pregame show at 5 p.m. Pacific.

The Yankees' playoff opener, against Minnesota, will be on ESPN at 10 a.m., followed by Florida at San Francisco at 1 p.m.

"We have some potentially wonderful matchups for the playoffs," Fox Sports President Ed Goren said. "But you get the sense that the buzz on the street is about the Cubs and this possibly being the year they may break through. The other hot topic is, can the [Boston] Red Sox break the curse of the Bambino?"

However, Fox has its No. 1 announcing team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver initially assigned to the Yankees and Twins. Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons, for now, are working the Cubs and Braves.

ESPN has three games Wednesday -- Game 2 of the Marlin-Giant series at 1 p.m., Game 2 of the Cubs and Braves at 4 p.m. and Game 1 of Boston-Oakland at 7 p.m. Fox doesn't have a game Wednesday.

Thursday's lineup is Game 2 of Boston-Oakland on ESPN2 at 1 p.m., and the Twins at Yankees on Fox at 5:15 p.m.

ESPN's No. 1 announcing team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan will be bouncing around.

They start today with the Twins and Yankees, work Chicago-Atlanta on Wednesday, Boston-Oakland on Thursday and Atlanta-Chicago on Friday.

Goren said Fox's regular-season baseball ratings were up 8% -- and any kind of an increase in ratings is a good sign these days.

"And if we talk again a month from now I think we'll be talking how good the ratings were during the postseason," he said.

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