MARLINS PITCHING VS. YANKEES HITTING
Florida's top four starting pitchers - Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Mark Redman and Dontrelle Willis - have combined for 108 career regular-season wins.
That's a far cry from the 858 career wins racked up by the New York Yankees' vaunted foursome of David Wells, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
The Marlins starters posted a 7.20 ERA in their National League Championship Series victory over the Chicago Cubs, and the Yankees' lineup should make their task even tougher.
So often, these games are decided by critical matchups in the middle innings, and the Marlins have a gaping hole in left-handed relief. That wasn't a big issue against a Cubs lineup, which generates most of its power from the right side (Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez, et al.) But against New York, it could be huge, especially with that short, 314-foot porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.
The Marlins carried only one left-hander in their bullpen during the NLCS - Michael Tejera - but they plan to address this by putting Willis out there, to keep him available for crucial situations against left-handed hitters such as Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi and switch-hitters Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.
Marlins key number: .392 - Left-handed batters hit against Tejera this season.
Yankees key number: 177 - Home runs the Yankees hit against right-handed pitchers this year, they hit just 53 against left-handers.
YANKEES PITCHING VS. MARLINS HITTING
The Yankees' starters all have big game experience, but this team still has serious concerns in middle relief. Jose Contreras is still unproven as a bridge to superhuman closer Mariano Rivera.
So if the Marlins can drive up the pitch counts of the Yankees starters, forcing them from the game early, it could give them a big lift.
Ivan Rodriguez, who was the MVP against the Cubs, has been good against both of the Yankees' left-handed starters, batting .333 for his career against Wells and .394 against Pettitte. Rodriguez also has five hits in 16 at-bats against Rivera. Jeff Conine, a former Oriole, has five RBIs in 12 at-bats against Rivera.
With their experience facing the Yankees in the past, Rodriguez and Conine might be the focal points for the Marlins. But this is a group that will sneak up on teams. The top of the order has a pair of speedsters in Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo.
Derrek Lee is hitting .208 this postseason, but he had some big hits late in the NLCS. And at age 20, Miguel Cabrera has been so intimidated by the postseason stage, he's hitting .318 with three home runs, nine RBIs and a .375 on-base percentage.
Yankees key number: 3.94 - Yankees' ERA in the ALCS vs. the Red Sox, one of the most potent offensive teams in baseball history.
Marlins key number: .385 - Postseason batting average of Florida's No. 7 hitter, Jeff Conine.
Marlins: Marlins manager Jack McKeon says he has the best defensive infield in baseball. Lee makes everyone look better because he is so good around the base at first.
Cabrera's versatility has helped make the Marlins a more complete team. To get Mike Lowell back in the lineup at third base, McKeon moved Cabrera to right field, and the youngster responded with two great plays in Game 7 against the Cubs.
Now, McKeon plans to use Conine as his designated hitter, allowing him to put Juan Encarnacion back in right field and Cabrera back in left.
Defense is not considered one of New York's team strenghts, and the speedy Marlins will probably try to take the extra base in key situations the way the Anaheim Angels did when they eliminated the Yankees in last year's Division Series.
Marlin's Key number: 5 - Number of errors in 11 postseason games.
Yankees' Key number: 8 - Number of errors in 11 postseason games.
Jack McKeon: He took over a team that was 19-29 under Jeff Torborg and guided it to the National League wild-card berth. McKeon, 72, is the oldest manager in World Series history, passing Casey Stengel, who was 70 in 1960, when his Yankees lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games.
Joe Torre: This is the sixth time Torre has guided the Yankees to the World Series in his eight years at their helm. They won in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, but lost the last time they were here, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2001.
Marlins: Luis Castillo. By the end of this series, the switch-hitting second baseman hopes to be remembered for something other than hitting that foul ball to longtime Cubs fan Steve Bartman in Game 6 of the NLCS.
Yankees: Hideki Matsui. He looked like he had ice water running through his veins when he drilled that double down the right-field line off Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7. The bigger the stage, the better Matsui seems to play.
Will the Marlins be like the 1998 San Diego Padres, a team that looked so promising and still got swept by the Yankees in four games? Or will they look like the 2001 Diamondbacks, who overcame those crushing losses in New York and beat the Yankees in seven? The answer is probably somewhere in between.
YANKEES IN FIVE.