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World Series matchups

THE BALTIMORE SUN

First base

Indians: Jim Thome. Hit 40 homers and drove in 102 runs in regular season, but powerless in postseason, batting just .138 with one RBI. Will take a walk and will bunt, if needed. A shaky third baseman in the 1995 World Series, has improved defensely since moving to first.

Marlins: Jeff Conine and Darren Daulton. Conine, the only starter left from Florida's first game in 1993, has not hit as expected the entire year. He fields better than Daulton, a left-handed hitter acquired from Phillies in midseason. Despite bad knees, Daulton hit eight triples and is DH candidate.

Edge: Indians.

Second base

Indians: Bip Roberts and Tony Fernandez. Speedy Roberts, who hit .302 in regular season, likely to start at Miami. An Aug. 31 trade with Kansas City gives him his first World Series chance. Fernandez, whose 11th-inning home run beat the Orioles in ALCS clincher, is a former Gold Glove shortstop.

Marlins: Craig Counsell and Kurt Abbott. Counsell, acquired in -- summer trade with Colorado, has hit .421 in the postseason. Abbott has split time with Counsell and produced in the leadoff spot, hitting .303 with runners in scoring position.

Edge: Indians.

Shortstop

Indians: Omar Vizquel. Fancy fielder, often using bare hand to make plays. His defense was a highlight of Indians' visit to 1995 World Series. Handles bat well, batting .280 in regular season, and stole 43 bases. Was just 1-for-25 in the ALCS.

Marlins: Edgar Renteria. At 22, one of baseball's best young players. Made some exceptional plays in postseason, but hit only .200. Led team with 171 hits and topped NL in sacrifice bunts (19).

Edge: Marlins.

Third base

Indians: Matt Williams. Slow start in April after trade from San Francisco, came back to finish with 32 homers and 105 RBIs. Outstanding defense, particularly backhanding balls down the line. Wants to overcome .125 performance in 1989 earthquake Series with Giants.

Marlins: Bobby Bonilla. One of Florida's big-money free agents. Batted .297 with 96 RBIs in regular season, delivered big hits in postseason. Not the best fielder, not the worst. Should be OK after hurting left hamstring in NLCS.

Edge: Indians.

Catcher

Indians: Sandy Alomar. Set career bests in batting (.324), homers (21) and RBIs (83), and also had a 30-game hitting streak. His HR made him the All-Star MVP at Jacobs Field. Strong behind the plate, and a calming influence on young pitchers.

Marlins: Charles Johnson. May someday be considered one of the best defensive catchers ever. Went 175 straight games without an error before two uncharacteristic mistakes in NLCS. Threw out 45 percent of runners who tried to steal. Set career highs in homers (19) and RBIs (63).

Edge: Marlins.

Left field

Indians: David Justice and Brian Giles. Justice, whose home run for Atlanta beat Indians in clinching game of 1995 World Series, became a fan favorite in Cleveland after spring trade. Hit .329 with 33 homers and 101 RBIs, and batted .300 in postseason. He'll move from DH to outfield at Miami and Giles, who hit 17 homers in his first full year, will play left at the Jake.

Marlins: Moises Alou. Proved he was worthy of expensive free-agent contract, leading team with 115 RBIs. Good all-around player, but was slowed by sore left wrist in NLCS, batting just .067.

Edge: Marlins.

Center field

Indians: Marquis Grissom. Dropped from leadoff because of early-season slump, he flourished in No. 9 spot. A Gold Glover with speed, he excelled in 1996 postseason for Atlanta before being traded with Justice for Kenny Lofton. Was MVP of this year's ALCS, reaffirming reputation as a big-game player.

Marlins: Devon White. Also a former Gold Glover with speed, defense is his strength. Hit .245 in regular season and dipped to .188 in postseason, prompting him to be dropped from leadoff slot.

Edge: Indians.

Right field

Indians: Manny Ramirez. Can win a game at the plate. Hit .328 with 26 homers, and homered two more times in postseason. At 25, one of top young power hitters in majors. Can lose a game in the field -- his arm is good, but his fielding is poor -- and he makes mistakes on the bases.

Marlins: Gary Sheffield. A disappointment after signing a $61 million contract, hitting just 21 homers with 71 RBIs. Showed signs of breaking loose in a big way in the playoffs, batting .346 with two home runs. Active bat, though patient -- he has walked in all nine postseason games. Strong arm, shaky on flies and ground singles.

Edge: Marlins.

Designated hitter

Indians: Justice. Made nice adjustment to AL pitching, and familiar with Marlins' staff. Troubled by shoulder strain late in year.

Marlins: Daulton and Jim Eisenreich. Both left-handed, Daulton hits for power and Eisenreich hits more often. Teammates on the 1993 Phillies team that reached the World Series.

Edge: Indians.

Starting pitching

Indians: Orel Hershiser, Jaret Wright, Chad Ogea, Charles Nagy. All right-handed. Hershiser is a proven October ace at 39, rookie Wright showed postseason poise at 21. Nagy has been a consistent winner and Ogea has pitched well since September.

Marlins: Livan Hernandez, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Tony Saunders. Hernandez, not even in the original postseason rotation, struck out an NLCS-record 15 against Atlanta in Game 5 and was the MVP. Brown, with a nasty sinker, is 2-0 this postseason. Leiter's success depends on his control and rookie Saunders (Glen Burnie High) pitched well vs. Braves only. Loss of Alex Fernandez to torn rotator cuff hurts.

Edge: Indians.

Relief pitching

Indians: Jose Mesa, Mike Jackson, Paul Assenmacher, Eric Plunk, Alvin Morman, Brian Anderson. Jackson's sharp slider makes him outstanding in setup role, Assenmacher and Morman serve as lefty specialists and Plunk does well in middle. Mesa is a question mark, even after earning way back into closer role.

Marlins: Robb Nen, Jay Powell, Dennis Cook, Ed Vosberg, Felix Heredia. Like Indians, the middle and setup men are left-right balanced and effective. Nen's high-90s-mph fastball has been impressive in postseason, and gives Marlins the advantage.

Edge: Marlins.

Bench

Indians: Kevin Seitzer, Jeff Branson and Fernandez. Seitzer, in first World Series, is a professional hitter and Fernandez, when he's not starting, provides flexibility.

Marlins: John Cangelosi, Abbott and Eisenreich. NL players are generally more accustomed to coming off the bench, and Cangelosi and Eisenreich do it well.

Edge: Marlins.

Manager

Indians: Mike Hargrove. Unlike many AL managers, he does not just wait for home runs, although Indians do hit them. Bunted, ran and made nice defensive adjustments in the ALCS. Learned from 1995 World Series loss, no doubt.

Marlins: Jim Leyland. His first World Series in 34th season. Though other first-year Marlins got more money to come to Florida, he might be the most valuable newcomer. His emotional ride may make him this year's version of Joe Torre.

Edge: Marlins.

Pub Date: 10/18/97

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