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Pitching: Twins vs. Yankees10/03/2004 7:00 PM ET
By Michael Bauman / MLB.com
Mike Mussina vs. Johan Santana: With a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, a devastating changeup, an effective breaking ball and increasingly effective command, Santana was the best starting pitcher in the American League over the last four months. Mussina, coming off the disabled list, rounded into his usual form late in the season. He doesn't throw with the velocity he used to have, now mostly in the high 80s, but one American League hitting coach recently calculated that he threw six different pitches for quality strikes in a single game. He is once again worthy of a Game 1 start, but it is impossible to pick against Santana at this juncture.
Jon Lieber vs. Brad Radke: There may be no walks in Game 2. These are two of the best control pitchers in the game. Radke relies on precise, yet variable, locations and changing speeds. Lieber, with a hard sinker, can be a groundball-inducing machine. Both are pitchers who depend on location and finesse rather than velocity. Radke had a season that was better than his won-loss record indicated. Lieber, after Tommy John surgery, found his form in the late season.
After that, the matchups are no sure thing. The Twins will start Carlos Silva in Game 3. If they are ahead in the series, they are expected to go with Kyle Lohse in Game 4. If they are trailing, they are expected to go back to Santana.
The Yankees had planned on starting Orlando Hernandez in Game 3, but a tired arm makes his status uncertain. They could go with Kevin Brown, back from his self-inflicted broken left hand. And they also could have Javier Vazquez in the mix.
Silva is yet another Minnesota pitcher who won't part with many walks. He has better than average velocity and good command, but he has been hittable often this season, making mistakes in the strike zone. Lohse has had a season that simply did not match up to the promise of his first two seasons, thus his marginal status in the playoff rotation.
The Yankees have more potential in the bottom half of the playoff rotation, but more questions, as well. Hernandez was dazzling for the Yankees in his comeback, with a dizzying array of pitches, a baffling change of speed and all of it delivered with that herky-jerky delivery that makes picking up the ball a tricky task. Brown, since coming back from smashing his left hand into a wall, has had one bad start and one good one. The Yankees still have visions of his power sinker, which completely neutralizes entire lineups. And Vazquez has terrific stuff -- velocity, breaking ball, the whole package -- and he has had repeated pronouncements by Torre of the manager's complete confidence. But he has been maddeningly erratic, and he has not been here before.
Overall, for the bottom of the rotation, the edge goes to the team with more potential in big games despite its many question marks.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.