Five players on the spot

Baseball: Division Series

October 05, 2004|By JOE CHRISTENSEN

John Santana, Minnesota Twins

The favorite for the American League Cy Young Award hasn't lost since July 11, and he has made the Twins feel invincible every time he takes the mound. So what happens if he loses Game 1 at Yankee Stadium? His team is in big trouble.

Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox

Martinez was dazzling again this season, but he hit a wall in September and lost four straight starts for the first time in his career. The Red Sox feel utra-confident with Curt Schilling in Game 1, but if Martinez folds in Game 2, then there is a big drop-off.

Carlos Beltran, Houston Astros

He helped lift this team back from the dead in mid-August, but cooled off late in the season, hitting just two home runs over the final 30 games. This team has no shortage of offense, but Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell have struggled in postseasons past, and October is the time when superstars need to shine.

John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves

There has been nothing more frustrating for Braves fans in receent years than to see this great pitcher play such little importance in the postseason. Atlanta is 6-10 in its past 16 postseason games, and Smoltz has just one save in that span. The Braves's starters and middle relievers all have their shortcomings, but this team must get Smoltz the ball with a lead.

Odalis Perez, Los Angeles Dogers

The Dodgers look like big underdogs against St. Louis but both teams have starting pitching issues, and their best hope is for Perez to stymie the potent Cardinals' lineup in Game 1. With Brad Penny and Wilson Alvarez hurt, Jeff Weaver and Jose Lima will follow Perez, and a loss could lead directly to a St. Louis sweep.

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