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World Series 2001
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10/16/2001 03:20 AM ET
Molony: Pitching to take center stage in NLCS
Of the 10 National League Cy Young Awards awarded since 1991, the owners of nine of those awards will be on the rosters of Arizona and Atlanta when the two teams begin their best-of-seven National League Championship Series Tuesday night in Phoenix.

So it is fitting that four-time Cy Young Award-winner Greg Maddux of the Braves and three-time winner Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks will oppose each other in Game One. In a postseason that has been dominated by pitching, this series more than any will match some of the most dominating pitchers of this generation.

Besides Johnson, who has won the NL Cy Young the last two years, and Maddux, who won it four consecutive years (92-95), the Braves will send the '91 and '98 winner, Tom Glavine, to the mound in Game Two and John Smoltz, who won it in '96, will work out of the bullpen. And of course the Diamondbacks may have this year's Cy Young Award winner in 22-game winner Curt Schilling. Johnson, Glavine and Maddux finished 1-2-3 in the voting last season.

Every NL strikeout leader since 1996 is expected to pitch in this series as well as the top four finishers in the league in ERA this season: Johnson, Schilling, John Burkett and Maddux.

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And what better way to start it off than with the marquee matchup of Johnson vs. Maddux? The two pitchers, who won 38 games and tossed five shutouts between them this season, are as different in style as they are in build. Johnson, the 6-10 left-hander with the overpowering fastball, and Maddux, a smallish right-hander with impeccable control, have few similarities on the mound.

One trait these two future Hall of Famers do share is greatness.

The Braves were hoping to play St. Louis, because that would have meant Atlanta would have the home field advantage. Instead they get to go on the road and get to face Johnson in the opener. Not a very enticing option in the best of circumstances, but at least the Braves will have their ace going.

Both Johnson and Maddux will be out to best the other Tuesday night at Bank One Ballpark. Which means it will likely be a very tough night to be a hitter.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com.