NL Division Series


New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks


Today -- New York (Yoshii 12-8) at Arizona (Johnson 17-9), 11: 09 p.m., ESPN

Tomorrow -- New York (Rogers 5-1) at Arizona (Stottlemyre 6-3), 11: 09 p.m., ESPN

Friday -- Arizona (Daal 16-9) at New York (Reed 11-5), TBA

Saturday -- Arizona (Anderson 8-2) at New York (Leiter 13-12), TBA*

Sunday -- New York at Arizona, TBA* *-If necessary

Season series: Diamondbacks 7, Mets 2

Season series leaders:

Mets Avg. HR RBIs

Henderson .455 0 2

Ordonez .440 0 5

Piazza .400 1 4

D'backs Avg. HR RBIs

Gonzalez .441 3 11

Bell .375 3 10

Williams .316 1 9

In a nutshell: The Mets figure to be dragging by the time they arrive in Arizona for this series, in which they'll have to find a way to beat superstar Randy Johnson at least once and probably twice to advance to the NL Championship Series. Bobby Valentine's team had to play down to the last day and defeat Cincinnati last night to get here. The Diamondbacks have had the luxury of lining up their rotation and resting their regulars for their first postseason trip.

The Mets will win if: They can find a way to get past Johnson and wrest the home-field advantage from the Diamondbacks. Maybe they should contact former manager Davey Johnson, who guided the Orioles past Johnson in a similar situation two years ago.

The Diamondbacks will win if: They get a decent performance from Johnson and continue to get consistent production from throughout their power-packed lineup.

Prediction: The Big Unit has lost four straight postseason decisions but will come up big this time. The Diamondbacks will take control quickly and dispose of the Mets in four games, maybe three.

Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves


Today -- Houston (Reynolds 16-14) at Atlanta (Maddux 19-9), 4: 09 p.m., ESPN

Tomorrow -- Houston (Lima 21-10) at Atlanta (Millwood 18-7), 4: 09 p.m., ESPN

Friday -- Atlanta (Glavine 14-11) at Houston (Hampton 22-4), TBA

Saturday -- Atlanta (Smoltz 11-8) at Houston, TBA*

Sunday -- Houston at Atlanta, TBA* *-If necessary

Season series: Braves 6, Astros 1

Season series leaders:

Astros Avg. HR RBIs

Everett .407 0 7

Biggio .393 0 3

Bagwell .348 3 6

Braves Avg. HR RBIs

Klesko .417 1 4

C. Jones .310 2 4

Boone .261 2 6

In a nutshell: The Braves cruised to the best record in baseball this year, thanks again to the pitching staff of the '90s, but it is the Astros who have the two winningest pitchers in the league -- Mike Hampton and Jose Lima. The question then, is whether it comes down to experience or exuberance. Both teams have solid but unspectacular offenses, so it figures to come down to who pitches the best. No surprise there.

The Astros will win if: Lima and Hampton can replicate their regular-season efforts under postseason pressure. That's a big if.

The Braves will win if: Greg Maddux is on his game and young Kevin Millwood can continue to excel in the postseason. Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan will do the rest.

Prediction: Despite their regular presence in the playoffs during the past decade, the Braves might actually be the hungrier team. Braves in five.

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