NL Championship Series matchups

October 04, 1990|By Kent Baker

STARTING PITCHING

Reds Game 1 starter Jose Rijo was the first to say the NL West race was over. Now he gets to start anew after finishing 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA in September. Opponents are batting .212 against him. Left-hander Tom Browning, the team's top winner, threw well in a five-inning tuneup Monday. Danny Jackson will go on his normal four days' rest in Pittsburgh on Monday after a good outing yesterday. He has been bothered by injuries but is healthy now. For the Pirates, Bob Walk is crafty and has postseason experience. Doug Drabek, the league's leading winner, is the first Pirate to win 22 games since Bob Friend in 1958. He also is an improved hitter. Zane Smith's career was renewed after the trade from Montreal. He went 6-1 in Pittsburgh. EDGE: None.

RELIEF PITCHING

The Reds will be fortified by the reunification of the "Nasty Boys," with setup man Norm Charlton moving back to the bullpen for the playoffs. Randy Myers finished second in the league in saves, and Rob Dibble throws bullets. The group has 50 saves in 63 chances and averages nearly a strikeout an inning. There is a good blend of lefty-righty in the middle with Scott Scudder and Jack Armstrong added to veteran Rick Mahler, Tim Layana and Tim Birtsas. The Pirates have shuffled pitchers back and forth from the Class AAA Buffalo Bisons all season and have no one among the save leaders. Through the season, an NL-record 19 pitchers won games. Stan Belinda and Bill Landrum figure to be the finishers, but there will be plenty of help in the middle from starters John Smiley and Neal Heaton, both lefties. EDGE: Reds.

CATCHING

Joe Oliver has been bothered by shoulder problems. He platoons with Jeff Reed, who may get the two starts at home against the Pittsburgh right-handers. Mike LaValliere blocks everything at the plate and calls a game as well as anyone. He alternates with Don Slaught, who plays against left-handers. Slaught's biggest strength is his bat. EDGE: Pirates.

FIRST BASE

Rookie Hal Morris, a rare major-league bargain at $100,000, has supplanted Todd Benzinger for the Reds. Gary Redus and Sid Bream split time here for Pittsburgh, but they respond better with Bream on the field. They are 14-0 when Bream has homered. EDGE: None.

SECOND BASE

Mariano Duncan has career highs in triples, homers and RBI and kills left-handed pitchers (.412). Backup Ron Oester is a switch hitter, but a knee injury three years ago curtailed his range on artificial turf, where this entire series will be played. Pittsburgh's Jose Lind has slumped through the second half. He is 23-for-24 in stolen bases the past two years. EDGE: Reds.

SHORTSTOP

An All-Star, the Reds' Barry Larkin does everything well and hit solidly through the stretch. Jay Bell has come on dramatically the past two years to become a fixture in the No. 2 hole in the batting order for Pittsburgh. EDGE: Reds.

THIRD BASE

Chris Sabo, adequate with the glove, is a terror on the bases and has become a slugger this season with a career-high 25 homers. Jeff King finally has started to fulfill some of the promise seen in him when taken No. 1 in the 1986 draft. If he falters, there always is Wally Backman, who has been in this position a time or two. EDGE: Reds.

LEFT FIELD

Billy Hatcher has been around the league and has playoff experience with the Astros. A competent bunter, he is one of Cincinnati's biggest threats to steal. Barry Bonds is considered the NL Most Valuable Player by many. He has homered against every team in the league and has the total package -- speed, average and a strong throwing arm. EDGE: Pirates.

CENTER FIELD

Eric Davis has had an injury-filled season (the latest to his shoulder), but he is hot right now. He has yielded center field to Billy Hatcher for nearly half the season. Pirate Andy Van Slyke often is overshadowed by the "Killer B's," but no one plays harder or talks about it better. EDGE: None.

RIGHT FIELD

A good clutch hitter and a smart player on the bases, Paul O'Neill is one of the most dependable Reds. If Bonds isn't the MVP, then it's the Pirates' Bobby Bonilla, shifted here from third base, where he had all kinds of defensive problems. More comfortable now, he is among the league's offensive leaders in virtually everything. EDGE: Pirates.

BENCH

The Reds will be hurt by the absence of veteran Bill Doran, who has undergone surgery. He was an inspiration and a major contributor (.373 average in 17 games). But there still are quality players available, including Benzinger, Glenn Braggs (a terror against left-handers), Herm Winningham and Luis Quinones, the team's premier pinch hitter. Backman/King and LaValliere/Slaught give the bench a good start, and R.J. Reynolds and Carmelo Martinez add punch. EDGE: Pirates.

MANAGER

Lou Piniella carried the Reds out of their bridesmaid role and stayed calm most of the season, except for the infamous base-throwing incident. He is a good judge of talent. Jim Leyland is regarded as a solid baseball man with a knack for handling the modern player. EDGE: None.

PREDICTION

Pirates in six games.

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