Don't look for Phillies to pull miracle on Braves Atlanta is too talented, too quick, too experienced

October 06, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

This year's National League Championship Series promises a little something of everything, with outstanding pitching, very good hitting, quality defense and character galore.

And there's the potential for drama. The Philadelphia Phillies, who spent almost every day of the 1993 season in first place in the East, are seeking to prove that they can not only give the Braves a decent run for their third straight pennant, but actually wrest the crown away from heavily favored Atlanta.

Don't count on it.

Here's a look at how the Braves and Phillies match up:

CATCHER

Phillies: Darren Daulton this year solidified his place as one of the best catchers in baseball by putting together a second straight 20-homer, 100-RBI season. Daulton has a strong arm and handles pitchers well. But he has played in 146 games, a whopping number for a catcher, and if he shows signs of tiring, Philadelphia will be in big trouble.

Braves: Atlanta uses a platoon of switch-hitter Damon Berryhill, who plays against right-handers, and Greg Olson, who usually plays against left-handers. Both are decent defenders. They've combined for 12 home runs in 600 at-bats.

Edge: A sizable one to the Phillies.

FIRST BASE

Phillies: With his doughboy frame, John Kruk hardly looks the part of one of the National League's best first basemen. Yet Kruk, who has bounced back from a late-summer slump, is an excellent line-drive hitter and a good defensive player (eight errors), though he has had a sore back recently.

Braves: On the July night Atlanta got Fred McGriff in the Great San Diego Fire Sale, a part of the press box in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium caught fire and McGriff hit a three-run homer. Neither McGriff nor the Braves have cooled since.

Edge: Braves, but not by as much as you may think.

SECOND BASE

Phillies: Mariano Duncan wrested the everyday job from Mickey Morandini with a good bat and solid run production, usually out of the second slot in the lineup. Duncan is one of the few Philadelphia regulars with postseason experience.

Braves: Mark Lemke is a solid performer with a flair for coming up big in the postseason (.417 in the 1991 World Series). Lemke, a switch-hitter, hit 70 points higher this season against left-handers, which will help against Danny Jackson and Terry Mulholland.

Edge: Phillies.

SHORTSTOP

Phillies: Rookie Kevin Stocker joined the team from Triple-A just after the All-Star break and solidified the position with good defense and an even better bat.

Braves: There are some who suggest that Jeff Blauser has been the most valuable Brave this year. He hit .305 and drove in 73 runs from the second slot.

Edge: Braves.

THIRD BASE

Phillies: Though his home run production fell from 27 in 1992 to 18 this year, Dave Hollins drove in 93 runs again this season. He hits 90 points better from the right side (.330).

Braves: For the past two years, Terry Pendleton has been the fulcrum of the Atlanta attack. With McGriff in the order, Pendleton has dropped either to fifth or sixth from third in the lineup, but he is still a potent force and one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.

+ Edge: Slight to the Braves.

LEFT FIELD

Phillies: Philadelphia has done well with a platoon of Milt Thompson and Pete Incaviglia. Incaviglia, who plays against left-handers, has gotten more at-bats. Thompson doesn't have Incaviglia's power, but possesses much more speed, which will be important in attempting to keep Otis Nixon and Ron Gant from taking extra bases on singles and doubles.

Braves: On another club, without all the competition for attention, Ron Gant would be a solid challenger for NL MVP honors. He combines power and speed (26 steals). His 116 strikeouts and 11 errors are a drawback, though.

Edge: Braves.

CENTER FIELD

Phillies: Len Dykstra may be the best leadoff man in the game. He led the National League in hits and runs, and is the first NL player to lead his team in walks and at-bats. Dykstra has also become a great defensive outfielder. His ability to get on base is a key.

Braves: Otis Nixon took the center-field and the leadoff spots in the order away from Deion Sanders in July, when Sanders developed a respiratory ailment. Nixon is exactly what the Braves need at the top of the order, a veteran hitter with excellent speed (47 steals).

6* Edge: Solid advantage to the Phillies.

RIGHT FIELD

Phillies: Left-handed hitter Jim Eisenreich and right-handed hitter Wes Chamberlain split time, and the tandem is good, though not as productive as the left-field platoon.

Braves: David Justice, more than perhaps anyone else in the Atlanta lineup, benefited from McGriff's presence, moving to fifth in the order and seeing better pitches. He responded with his best season.

0$ Edge: Significant one to Braves.

STARTING PITCHING

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