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10/14/09 5:11 AM ET

Angels-Yankees matchup: Closer

Brian Fuentes vs. Mariano Rivera

Heading into the American League Championship Series between the Angels and Yankees, beginning Friday at 7:57 p.m. ET on FOX, MLB.com looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.

Brian Fuentes (1-5, 3.93 ERA, 48/55 saves)

A year after former closer Francisco Rodriguez set the saves record with 62, new addition Brian Fuentes added a Major League-best 48 saves this year after signing with the Angels as a free agent in December.

It was an impressive total for Fuentes, who made the difficult leap from playing with the Rockies in the National League West to playing with the Angels this season.

Fuentes, though, wasn't exactly perfect as evidenced by his 1-5 record, seven blown saves and 3.93 ERA this season.

But Fuentes was lights out to end the season, converting his last seven saves without allowing a run in any of those appearances. And Fuentes was also on his game in the ALDS by converting both of his save opportunities against the Red Sox without allowing a run.

The two saves, including one in which he pitched a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the Angels' comeback win in Game 3 to sweep the series, were big confidence boosters for Fuentes, who entered this year with a 6.52 ERA in 10 career postseason games.

Fuentes brings a different look as a closer, as he's left-handed and has a sidearm-like delivery that is especially difficult on left-handed hitters.

But Fuentes can be vulnerable against right-handers, which is the reason that Mike Scioscia will sometimes bring out setup man Kevin Jepsen to open the ninth inning in a save situation if a few tough right-handed batters come up before a left-hander in the lineup.

Scioscia, though, at least knows that Fuentes has been solid recently, converting his last nine opportunities, including the playoffs, without allowing a run.

Mariano Rivera (3-3, 1.76 ERA, 44/46 saves)

Mariano Rivera is regarded as the best closer of his generation, and the right-hander is even better when it comes to the postseason.

Rivera has recorded a Major League record 35 saves in the postseason and his ERA in 76 postseason games is 0.74, the lowest all-time among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched. Unflappable on the mound, Rivera is no stranger to the most pressure-filled situations, having appeared in 20 World Series games.

Though he is nearing his 40th birthday, Rivera has shown no signs of slowing down. This year, he was once again masterful during the regular season, converting 44 of his 46 save chances and finishing third in the AL in saves.

Rivera even got better as the season went on. In his final 40 appearances he was 2-1 with a 0.68 ERA and converted 30 of 31 save chances.

There are no surprises when Rivera takes the mound. Hitters know exactly what he's going to throw -- his cut fastball. Of course knowing what he's going to throw and actually hitting it are two different things. Rivera throws his cutter to both sides of the plate and locates it with such effectiveness that hitters cannot seem to square it up.

Even the most famous base hit off Rivera -- Luis Gonzalez's single to win Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks -- came on a broken-bat flare to left.

While New York manager Joe Girardi would ideally like to only pitch Rivera in the ninth inning, he has shown a willingness, like his predecessor Joe Torre, to use Rivera for four-out saves when necessary. Seven of his saves this year came when he pitched more than one inning, and he already has one this postseason, having tossed 1 1/3 innings to seal the Game 3 clincher.

EDGE: Yankees

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.