The Pittsburgh offense may not be as strong from top to bottom as Cincinnati's, but the middle of the order -- Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds -- is better. Against right-handers, Manager Jim Leyland bats third baseman Wally Backman in the leadoff spot and first baseman Sid Bream sixth. Against left-handers, Gary Redus plays first and leads off, with third baseman Jeff King in the sixth slot.
The Pirates' best lineup starts with the scrappy Backman, a spray hitter with a good eye. Behind him is shortstop Jay Bell, the league's premier bunter with 39 sacrifices. Behind those table setters come the big guns, beginning with Van Slyke, who struggled against left-handers this season but is dangerous in the clutch.
After Van Slyke come the B's: Bonilla, Bonds and Bream. The move of Bonilla from third base to right field enabled him to think less about defense, and he responded with an MVP-caliber season. But he has been overshadowed by fellow outfielder Bonds, who became only the second player in history -- Eric Davis was the first -- to total more than 30 home runs and 50 stolen bases in the same season. Bonds did not go more than two games without reaching base. Though Bonilla lacks speed, Bonds and Van Slyke are fast and good baserunners. Bream rebounded nicely from an injury-plagued 1989 season, in which he played only 19 games and had surgery on his right knee three times. The Pirates are 14-0 in games in which Bream has homered. His problems with left-handers, though, kept him from regaining the first base job completely.
The Pirates' biggest problem is the bottom of the order, since catcher Mike LaValliere has limited power and no speed and second baseman Jose Lind has slumped after a good first half. Both are outstanding fielders, however, which warrants their presence in the lineup.
Against left-handers, the lineup isn't much different, although Redus is not quite as pesky as Backman and possesses a weaker eye. King has hit for power since the all-star break, but his average is only .244.
The Pirates' bench is adequate, but not loaded. The best hitter of the bunch probably is outfielder R.J. Reynolds, who hit .286 with 11 stolen bases. Catcher Don Slaught hit only .212 after the all-star break, but is dependable. Carmelo Martinez, acquired from Philadelphia in August, is another good bat with some power. Infielder Rafael Belliard is around strictly for defense.
Game 1 starter Bob Walk has pitched well of late, but was erratic most of the season. He's pitched in many big games, and clinched the NL East title by shutting out St. Louis.
Probable Cy Young Award-winner Doug Drabek has been great. He's not known for his velocity, but his location and ability to change speeds makes him tough.
When left-hander Zane Smith was acquired from Montreal on Aug. 8, it was because he is a Mets killer. But he proceeded to kill nearly everybody, going 6-2 with a 1.30 earned run average. The Reds are weaker against left-handers, so look for Smith to play a big role.
Lefties Randy Tomlin and John Smiley went different ways down the stretch. Tomlin won some big September games, Smiley struggled with his control. But Smiley is a more seasoned pitcher.
The Pirates' bullpen is deep, although its lacks a proven closer. For middle relief, Leyland can go to left-hander Neal Heaton or right-hander Ted Power. To close, he can use right-handers Stan Belinda or Bill Landrum or left-hander Bob Patterson. The bullpen carried the Pirates through the middle of the summer, but faltered as the regular season drew to a close.
The Pirates' defense is excellent, due mainly to second baseman Lind, catcher LaValliere and center fielder Van Slyke. The acrobatic Lind gets to virtually everything and made only seven errors. Bell also has outstanding range, although he isn't quite as fast and made 21 errors.
LaValliere handles the pitching staff masterfully and blocks most everything thrown his way. In center, Van Slyke has great anticipation to go with good range. In left, Bonds made a habit of taking away home runs this season, and Bonilla is adequate in right. The weakest spots are first and third base. SCOUTING REPORT
The offensive key for the Pirates probably isn't the performance of Van Slyke, Bonilla or Bonds. Instead, it could be Pittsburgh's ability to get the top of its order on base.
Another key for Pittsburgh will be the ability to grab early leads. The Reds' bullpen is difficult to beat. The good news is that, other than Rijo, Reds starters have been vulnerable early in games.
The Pirates' starting pitching, while not always pinpoint, usually keeps them in games. More important may be the performance of the bullpen.