Two old Tampa buddies, Atlanta's Fred McGriff and New York's Tino Martinez, meet here. Martinez, with no homers or RBI in the post-season but is the better fielder. McGriff has more power and more experience, and he comes in hot.
Mariano Duncan was Yanks' offensive spark during the season, but has hit .258 in the post-season and is replaced for defensive purposes. Atlanta's Mark Lemke just keeps getting big hits (hitting .359 in the post-season) and scoring big runs.
Yankees Derek Jeter has played like anything but a rookie, hitting .415 in he post-season and adding excellent defense. Atlanta's Jeff Blauser doesn't measure up either way, and was may be sore after being hit by a pitch Thursday.
Chipper Jones has been Braves' most consistent post-season performer and relishes Series spotlight. Yankees may use a platoon of veterans Wade Boggs and Charlie Hayes. Neither has been impressive, posting a combined .128 post-season average.
The Yankees have been using both Darryl Strawberry (who can hit homers) and Tim Raines (who can run fast and play defense). The Braves have been using both Ryan Klesko (who can hit homers) and Andruw Jones (who can run fast and play defense). Klesko is probably headed to DH role, and may be neutralized by Yanks' left-handed starters. Strawberry, hobbled by a broken toe, is hot and has some experience against Braves pitchers.
Atlanta's Marquis Grissom can be a destructive leadoff hitter and makes use of his speed. But New York's Bernie Williams has been better, hitting .471 with five home runs in nine post-season games and playing smooth defense while evolving into the new Mr. October.
The Braves have a rookie, Jermaine Dye, who has been struggling, but has a few big hits. The Yankees have a veteran, Paul O'Neill, was has been struggling (and injured), but has a few big hits. Strawberry could play here too.
Atlanta's Javy Lopez may not be smooth defensively, but is all offense, hitting .484 in the post-season and earning NLCS MVP honors. Joe Girardi can keep the Yankees pitchers in line, but hasn't hit much. Jim Leyritz may get a few at-bats.
The Yankees have Andy Pettitte, David Cone and Jimmy Key rested and ready, which isn't bad. But that's still not enough to top John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Denny Neagle will get a start in Game 2 for Atlanta. Cone has been less than impressive, and the Yanks' fourth starter remains a question.
Atlanta's Mark Wohlers has been virtually unhittable in the post-season (no runs, one hit, no walks in six games), but his supporting cast has been shaky. Yankees have a better setup crew and the advantage of pre-closer Mariano Rivera followed by John Wetteland.
Usually, the NL team has the better depth. But the Braves bench has been weak, especially Terry Pendleton and Luis Polonia, who are 0-for-12. Ryan Klesko will probably DH. The Yankees, built in somewhat of an NL style, have a deeper bench. Cecil Fielder will DH in the New York games, and either Strawberry or Raines available.
Bobby Cox has managed more post-season games than anyone in history, so he must be doing something right. But Joe Torre is enjoying one of those magical seasons in which everything goes right.
Prediction: Yankees in 6