The home field advantage is overrated.
Howe pitched Zito and La Russa started Andy Benes on the last day of the season with home field advantage still up for grabs. Neither team got what it wanted, and that could become crucial if a series goes the distance. Since 1992 the home team is 9-2 (.818) in winner-take-all games, compared with 127-123 (.508) in all other postseason games. The advantage is also significant if a decisive game is close. Since 1982 home teams are 8-0 in ultimate games that were decided by one run and 6-0 when the winning run was scored in the final inning.
The Cardinals aren't good enough to get past Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
St. Louis's starting rotation has been lightly regarded since the June death of Darryl Kile, but the Cardinals played the best baseball of any team down the stretch (20-4), with righthander Matt Morris and lefthander Chuck Finley leading the way. The matchup against Arizona doesn't faze them, nor should it. Over their careers Johnson and Schilling were a combined 11-14 against St. Louis (postseason included). The Cardinals have the best starting eight in the playoffs and a bench fortified with tough outs, such as Miguel Cairo, a giant killer who is 8 for 19 in his career against Johnson.
" St. Louis is so scary right now," says one NL scout. "They believe they have fate on their side after all they've been through. They're playing with so much confidence."
The Diamondbacks' one-two pitching punch will overcome the loss of Luis Gonzalez.
No team can easily survive the loss of its best hitter, but Gonzalez's separated shoulder is more problematic because Arizona is already without infielder Craig Counsell (pinched neck nerve), the 2001 NLCS MVP, and outfielder Danny Bautista (dislocated shoulder). That trio accounted for 42% of the Diamondbacks' RBIs last postseason, which makes the burden on Johnson and Schilling even greater this time around. But the Big Two can't do much more than they did last October, when they had a 1.30 ERA in 89? innings and accounted for nine of Arizona's 11 wins.
The Yankees' offense isn't built for October.
The Bronx Bombers no longer have the grit of Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius; they're too reliant on the home run; and they strike out too often—all of which would seem to make them ill-suited to win the low-scoring, grind-it-out games that are typical of the postseason. Sounds reasonable, but it's just not true.
The Yankees won more games in which they did not hit a home run (19) than they did when they won the pennant last year (10). They won more games in which they scored three or fewer runs (16) than they did last season (15). They led the AL in runs, walks, on-base percentage and fewest shutouts, and were 19-9 against the other playoff teams. Does that sound like a vulnerable outfit? If anything, the Yankees' shaky defense (127 errors, 40 more than the Angels) will cause them more problems than their offense.