STRENGTHS -- Few teams combine the power and patience of the Yan kees, who ranked second in the AL in batting average, runs, home runs, walks and on-base percentage. A deep lineup, with sluggers Alex Rod riguez, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui in the middle, leaves opposing pitchers with little margin for error. They have one of the most feared starters in the game, 6-foot-10 left-hander Randy Johnson, who is tentatively scheduled to start Game 3 on Friday at Yankee Stadium. Mariano Rivera had 31 straight saves from April 9 to Aug. 11. Setup man Tom Gordon, who struggled in the playoffs last year, has given up only four earned runs in his past 20 ap pearances.
WEAKNESSES -- With Johnson ex pected to get one start, the Yankees will be relying on Mike Mussina - who has had elbow problems and was rocked for five runs in 1 2/3 in nings by the Orioles last Tuesday - rookie Chien-Ming Wang and playoff neophyte Shawn Chacon. The mid dle relief has been a problem all sea son.
KEY TO THE SERIES -- If Angels pitchers make too many mistakes and New York goes on a power kick, the Yankees will be difficult to beat, especially if they can hand a lead to Rivera in the ninth.
STRENGTHS -- The Angels lack the power to outslug the Yankees, but they have an aggressive offense. If Garret Anderson continues his re cent surge, the Angels have a potent 1-2 punch with him and 2004 AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero. By clinching their division last Tuesday, the An gels were able to align the rotation so their top two starters, Bartolo Colon and John Lackey, will pitch the first two games. The Angels have one of the game's best young closers in Francisco Rodriguez, who has con verted 18 save chances in a row.
WEAKNESSES -- Center fielder Steve Finley, who probably will start against right-handers, was a huge bust after signing a two-year, $14 mil lion deal last winter. Against left-handers, Chone Figgins, who has been shaky at times in center, will start in the outfield.
KEY TO THE SERIES -- Pitching - the starters led the AL with a 3.73 ERA - and defense carried the An gels, but when the offense began to string together clutch hits in mid-September, the Angels won 14 of their last 16 games to seize the divi sion title. If they continue to execute offensively, and pitch the way they have all season, they'll be able to compete with New York.
Coming tomorrow -- Atanta-Houston series preview.