October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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Baseball playoff preview pt. II

By Anthony Lafratta
Gazette Staff

Minnesota Twins
(AL Central champ)
vs. New York Yankees
(AL East champ)

The Twins would probably prefer a date with just about anyone but the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers owned the Twins this season, outscoring them 49-13 in a sweep of the seven game season series. In fact, the Twins put up the worst numbers - a .203 batting average, 1.86 runs per game, 7.05 earned run average and zero wins - of any American League team versus the Yankees this year (OK, so the Royals ERA was 7.06).

So, what do the playoffs hold for last year's near-Cinderella team, the Twins? Don't get too excited, but the answer is not much.

The Yankees have something to play for this year besides a fifth title in the last eight seasons. Always reliable rumours suggest Yankee skipper Joe Torre is on the chopping block if he fails to bring home a ring. The drought has simply gone on too long - the Yanks haven't claimed baseball's crown since - gasp - 2000.

After a late season surge, it would appear the Twins might be poised to upset the Yanks. Then again, bear in mind the Twins playoff push was made possible, in part, by favourable scheduling. Although the Twins went 37-18 in the final two months of the season, 41 of those 55 games were played against ball clubs with losing records, including 13 against the exceptionally horrible Tigers and not a single game against any of the other three AL playoff teams. With that in mind, it's unlikely there will be any repeat of a Cinderella story for the Twins in 2003.

Boston Red Sox
(AL Wild Card)
vs. Oakland Athletics
(AL West champ)

This series will seek to answer the question that has plagued baseball thinkers for decades: does good pitching really beat good hitting?

In this epic battle, the Red Sox come into the playoffs sporting the best offensive numbers in all of baseball, while Oakland continues to boast the top pitching in the AL.

Starting pitchers Tim Hudson and Barry Zito provide the A's with a formidable one-two punch, but a glaring hole has been left by a season ending injury to ace Mark Mulder. The A's will give the nod to Ted Lilly over rookie Rich Harden to fill the number three spot in the rotation, after the southpaw finished the season by winning six of his final seven starts.

That being said, baseball games are won by putting runs on the board. The BoSox need no reminder - they knocked around Harden, Lilly, Mulder and Zito to the tune of an 8.54 ERA in six starts this season before Hudson tamed Boston's potent attack in their final meeting.

On the other side of the coin, Oakland's offense has been dismal, ranking near the bottom of the AL in production. Although Boston's pitching has been sketchy, in a five game series the Red Sox can run Pedro Martinez to the hill twice. Martinez has been brilliant in playoffs past, posting a 3-0 record and a sparkling 1.13 ERA. In this series, it appears the powerful offense of the Red Sox tilts the scales in their favour.



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