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|Stephen Cannella's Breakdown|
|A Seattle lineup stocked with patient veterans will force Chicago's young
pitching staff to throw strikes. The M's walked more than any other team in the
majors and only the Indians reached base more often. Seattle blends speed
(Rickey Henderson, Mark McLemore and Mike Cameron each stole at least 24 bases)
and power (hello, Edgar Martinez, 37 homers, and Jay Buhner, 26) -- and, oh
yeah, that shortstop named Rodriguez broke out of his September slump on the
season's final weekend. Remember this: The Mariners, likely to face lefties in
Games 1 and 2, were 20-11 against southpaw
|Pitchers, pick your poison: Six White Sox starters hit .290 or better, five
scored at least 100 runs, and five knocked in at least 90. There are no soft
spots in Chicago's lineup. The ringleader of this nine-ring circus is Frank
Thomas, who had a career year in a career of career years, but Seattle can't
pitch around the Big Hurt: He's followed in the lineup by Magglio Ordonez,
Carlos Lee and Paul Konerko, who among them averaged 26 homers and 105 RBIs.
Especially scary is the discipline showed by such a young, aggressive lineup:
Only three AL teams whiffed less often than the White Sox.
|Cleveland was the only AL team to commit fewer errors than the M's and -- with
Cameron in center, Rodriguez at short and McLemore at second -- Seattle is
particularly strong up the middle. Third base is a trouble spot, though.
Catchers Dan Wilson and Joe Oliver threw out just 30 of 94
|Defense is Chicago's Achilles' heel -- only the A's and Rangers made more
errors. Shortstop Jose Valentin alone committed 36. The Sox covered up their
defensive deficiencies by outslugging opponents in the regular season; giving
away extra outs in tight postseason games is just asking for elimination. One
strong spot: Catcher, where Gold Glover Charles Johnson is one of the game's
|Top to bottom, this rotation is one of the AL's strongest. Seattle starters had
the league's second-best ERA and won 71 games, tied for most in the AL. They'll
show the White Sox a different look each day: Game 1 starter Freddy Garcia is a
classic power pitcher, Aaron Sele has one of the game's best curveballs, and
left-handers John Halama and Jamie Moyer lull hitters to sleep with offerings
that barely reach 85 mph. Cause for concern: Each starter had an ERA of at least
4.85 against the White Sox this
|| STARTING PITCHING
|Chicago's rotation was a strength for most of the season, but injuries have left
it in tatters. Ace James Baldwin, a right-hander, has a sore shoulder and made
just two September starts. Righty Cal Eldred will pitch with a five-inch screw
in his elbow. Game 1 starter Mike Sirotka, a southpaw, has a sore elbow.
Left-hander Jim Parque (13-6) is the only proven winner who's healthy; if any of
the walking wounded can't pitch, Chicago may have to trot out rookies Jon
Garland or Kip Wells, or reliever-turner-starter Sean
|Words you never thought you'd hear: Seattle's bullpen is strong. Only the Blue
Jays blew fewer saves. Closer Kazuhiro Sasaki set a rookie record with 37 and
blew just three. Before going to Sasaki, manager Lou Piniella has: Left-handed
setup man Arthur Rhodes who is effective against hitters on both sides of the
plate, and right-hander Jose Paniagua, who held lefties to a .206 average.
Righty Jose Mesa is shaky at times but has postseason
|Deep, versatile and unknown, Chicago's pen led the AL in relief wins and was
fourth in ERA. Kelly Wunsch, Bobby Howry, Mark Buerhle and Bill Simas can all be
used in virtually any late-inning situation. Closer Keith Foulke converted 34 of
39 save opportunities. The White Sox's recipe for advancing to the ALCS is this:
Grab an early lead, squeeze six strong innings out of the starters, and let this
group take them home.
|Only the White Sox (.192) had a worse pinch-hitting average than the M's (.202).
Piniella can call on veterans Stan Javier (a switch hitter) and Al Martin and,
if he doesn't start, outfielder Jay Buhner. For the most part, though, Seattle
lives and dies by its starting
|Harold Baines, as experienced a hitter as any in the majors, may make the
postseason roster as a pinch hitter. After him, the pickings are slim: Greg
Norton, Tony Graffanino and Jeff Abbott. If the Sox need their bench to win the
series for them, they're
|Piniella is one of the game's best, and managed the Reds to a World Series win
in 1990. He has expertly guided the Mariners' transition from a team reliant on
the home run to one built around pitching and timely hitting. In the season's
final week he said Seattle had been winning all season with "smoke and
mirrors." If so, he's the
|Jerry Manuel should win the AL Manager of the Year Award for guiding a young
team not even expected to contend to the league's best record (95-67).
Intelligent and thoughtful, he exudes a Zen-like calm that pervades the White
Sox clubhouse. He's the perfect skipper for an inexperienced team treading the
postseason waters for the first
|Jay Buhner. He played only 112 games because of injuries and struggled down the
stretch, hitting just .212 in September. The M's need his powerful right-handed
bat and leadership, especially with the White Sox starting two left-handers in
the series. One good omen: In 15 career postseason games Buhner, 36, has hit
.350 with six home
|| 'X' FACTOR
|Youth and inexperience. Only three Chicago starters -- Thomas, Johnson and
Herbert Perry -- have played in the postseason. How will such a green team,
especially one that struggles on defense and has huge holes in its rotation,
respond to the October pressure? Bashing opponents during the summer is one
thing, surviving them in the fall is quite
|Cannella's Prediction: Mariners in
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