September 30, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 18  

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Baseball playoff preview pt. I

By Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

Atlanta Braves (NL East champs) vs. Chicago Cubs (NL Central champs)

The Braves find themselves with more hitting than their opposition, but less pitching. What's wrong with this picture? Chicago's duo of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are tough to top in a five-game series and that's not even considering 14-game winner Matt Clement. The corktastic power of Sammy Sosa will lead the offense, although with only one career playoff appearance, it's still unclear if Sosa is as clutch in the playoffs as he is in the regular season.

The Braves, not to be outdone, have 20-game winner Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton and the legendary Greg Maddux, but Atlanta's strength this year has been their lineup. The Braves are better on paper, but you can't help but root for the Cubs as they chase their first World Series in 95 years. The head says Atlanta, but the heart (and Prior and Wood becoming the new-age Schilling and Johnson) says the Cubs.

San Francisco Giants (NL West champs) vs. Florida Marlins (NL Wild Card)

It's been a trying year for the Giants franchise. They're coming off a heartbreaking World Series loss to Anaheim, they lost their manager Dusty Baker in the off-season and the team's top two stars (Barry Bonds and Jason Schmidt) both lost parents during the season.

That said, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger and the Giants seem to have all the momentum on their side going into the playoffs. Schmidt came into his own as one of baseball's ace pitchers this year and Bonds... well, what more can be said. Florida wouldn't be wrong to simply walk Bonds every time he comes to the plate; the man is that dangerous.

As for the Marlins, they've already won. Their surprise NL wild card triumph has put their franchise back on the map and any post-season success at this point would be gravy. The good news for baseball fans is most of us will get to see Marlins phenom Dontrelle Willis pitch on a national stage, but the bottom line is the Giants are too tough.





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