TORONTO -- It's not much of a secret that the Philadelphia Phillies' chances of unseating the Toronto Blue Jays as World Series champions most likely depend on the arms of pitchers Terry Mulholland and Danny Jackson.
They are the two left-handers in the starting rotation for the National League champs, and the focus was on them even before a pitch was thrown. The Blue Jays were 22-25 against left-handers during the regular season and also lost to Wilson Alvarez in the American League Championship Series.
As the Phillies' leadoff left-hander, Mulholland, is considered by many to be the key to the series. And not just because he draws the assignment in Game 2 tonight against Dave Stewart.
Because of a hip flexor strain, Mulholland pitched only one inning in the last four weeks of the season. And, in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, he appeared to run out of energy after five innings. His durability is perhaps the Phillies' main question mark.
But Mulholland, the Phillies' Opening Day pitcher the past three years and the NL starter in the All-Star Game at Camden Yards this year, is doing his best to dismiss the notion.
"As far as how I am physically, I'm 100 percent," Mulholland said last night. "I felt 100 percent in Atlanta.
"I felt I had the stamina to go nine innings then [during the NL Championship Series], and I feel I can go nine innings now. What happened to me in Atlanta wasn't the result of physical condition.
"It wasn't a matter of me being tired," Mulholland said of his sixth-inning demise in that game. "Overall, I wasn't all that unhappy with the way I pitched against the Braves.
"I had five good innings, and then it was just a case of making poor pitches to some very good hitters. When I pitch [tonight], I'm going to worry about that game, not what happened before."
Mulholland is as familiar with the Blue Jays as they are with him. The teams train six miles apart on Florida's West Coast and are constant exhibition opponents.
The knowledge shared by the Phillies and Blue Jays, however, will not affect Mulholland's approach.
"Regardless of what happens [in Game 1], I just have to go out and do what's necessary to beat the Blue Jays.
"In a general way, it [the familiarity] will help because we know what they might do in certain situations. You pick up some tendencies, but overall it's not going to mean a whole lot either way because in the spring you're not on top of your game."
Mulholland said his game plan will be to follow the philosophy of pitching coach Johnny Podres.
"He [Podres] believes in doing what you've been doing all along," said Mulholland. "He doesn't believe you should jump ship when you're this close to shore."
Jackson, who will face rookie right-hander Pat Hentgen in Game 3 Tuesday, was generally perceived as the weak link of manager Jim Fregosi's postseason rotation. After winning Game 4 of the NL Championship Series, Jackson did not try to hide his displeasure.
"Put it this way," he explained, "if you talk bad about me, how am I supposed to feel? Ticked off. But I knew what kind of game I was going to pitch. I know what I can do under pressure."
A 23-game winner for Cincinnati in 1988, Jackson is one of the few Phillies with postseason experience. He didn't fare well against the Braves while with Pittsburgh a year ago, but in 1985 he allowed only three earned runs in four games (three starts). In the process, he enabled the Kansas City Royals, who went on to win the World Series, to avoid elimination by shutting out the Blue Jays, 2-0, in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series. He also won the fifth game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals that same year.
Jackson's win over the Braves last week was considered the biggest of the year for the Phillies.
"He [Jackson] was the guy," said Phillies reliever Larry Andersen. "We all agreed the key was D. J. Everybody said that was a mismatch, him against John Smoltz. But Danny pitched a great game that enabled us to get even."