Texas at New York

8 p.m., WRC-4, WBAL-11

The Yankees will try to win their second straight World Series and third in four years, one year after winning an AL-record 114 regular season games. The '99 team (98-64) fell a bit shy of expectations, but still is considered a favorite. After being swept at home by the Red Sox in mid-September and seeing an 8A game Eastern Division lead shrink to three, New York won nine of its next 10 games.

The everyday lineup remains much the same as a year ago, with the emergence of Ricky Ledee (.276, 9 HR, 40 RBI in 88 games) in left field the only change. CF Bernie Williams (.342, 25 HR, 115 RBI) and SS Derek Jeter (.349, 24 HR, 102 RBI) have had MVP-worthy seasons. RF Paul O'Neill, while having a sub-par year by his standards, had five home runs and an AL-high 31 RBI in September.

The Yankees are without former starter David Wells and left-handed setup man Graeme Lloyd, who were traded to Toronto in February as part of a deal for Roger Clemens. Clemens was erratic at best, going 14-10 with a 4.60 ERA. Mariano Rivera (45 saves, 1.83 ERA) continues to be one of baseball's most reliable closers. The Yankees allowed the second-fewest runs in the American League (731).

The Yankees were 8-4 against Texas this year and eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs in 1996 and 1998.


AL East Champions

Projected lineup

1. Chuck Knoblauch 2B

2. Derek Jeter SS

3. Paul O'Neill RF

4. Bernie Williams CF

5. Tino Martinez 1B

6. Darryl Strawberry DH

7. Ricky Ledee LF

8. Jorge Posada C

9. Scott Brosius 3B

After claiming their third AL West title in four years, the story is much the same for the Rangers as it has been for three years: plenty of offense, but questionable starting pitching. Texas finished second in the majors in runs scored (945), first in batting average (.293) and third in home runs (230). C Ivan Rodriguez (.332, 35 HR, 113 RBI), 1B Rafael Palmeiro (.324, 47 HR, 148 RBI) and RF Juan Gonzalez (.326, 39 HR, 128 RBI) all had huge years, but Esteban Loaiza's 4.56 ERA was the lowest of the team's starting pitchers. The Rangers finished 11th in the AL in ERA (5.07) and eighth in runs allowed (859). But the combination of setup man Jeff Zimmerman (9-3, 2.36 ERA) and closer John Wetteland (43 saves) means New York must score early.

Besides being the best offensive catcher in the AL, Rodriguez should keep Yankees base runners at bay with his strong arm. While the three other AL playoff teams -- Boston (316 SB allowed), New York (262) and Cleveland (236) -- rank near the bottom in the AL in stolen bases allowed, most are reluctant even to try to steal bases off of Rodriguez and the Rangers. Ten AL teams allowed more stolen bases than opponents attempted against Texas. Texas's hitters will have to handle New York's pitching better than they did in last year's series, when they managed one run in three games and batted .141.


AL West Champions

Projected lineup

1. Mark McLemore 2B

2. Ivan Rodriguez C

3. Rusty Greer LF

4. Juan Gonzalez RF

5. Rafael Palmeiro DH

6. Todd Zeile 3B

7. Lee Stevens 1B

8. Royce Clayton SS

9. Tom Goodwin CF

New York at Arizona

11 p.m., ESPN

The second-year Diamond-backs conducted a major overhaul and acquired LHP Randy Johnson, RHPs Todd Stottlemyre and Armando Reynoso, and utiltyman Tony Womack to help produce the second-best record in the majors (100-62). If not for lack of run support in mid-season, Johnson (17-9, 2.48 ERA, 364 strikeouts in 271C innings) easily could have won 22 games. Still, he remains a serious Cy Young contender. LHP Omar Daal has been Arizona's second-best starter, finishing 16-9 with a 3.65 ERA. Closer Matt Mantei, acquired from Florida in July, posted 32 saves and a 2.76 ERA.

Offensively, the Diamond-backs have a strong, steady quartet of players. 3B Matt Williams hit .303 with 35 home runs and 142 RBI with just 10 errors, and 2B Jay Bell (.289, 38 HR, 112 RBI) had the kind of year Arizona was hoping for when they signed him to a big contract before the '98 season. After playing with three teams since '96, LF Luis Gonzalez (.336, 26 HR, 111 RBI) had a breakout year, and CF Steve Finley (.264, 34 HR, 103 RBI) had the most productive season of his career. Womack (72 stolen bases) provides speed in the leadoff spot.

Johnson makes Arizona an intimidating opponent, especially in a five-game series, when he could start twice.


NL West Champions

Projected lineup

1. Tony Womack RF

2. Jay Bell 2B

3. Luis Gonzalez LF

4. Matt Williams 3B

5. Erubiel Durazo 1B

6. Steve Finley CF

7. Hanley Frias SS

8. Kelly Stinnett C

9. Randy Johnson P

Which Mets team will show up for the playoffs? Will it be the one that went 40-15 at one point and looked like the best team in baseball? Or will it be the one that lost seven in a row down the stretch and nearly missed the playoffs?

New York won with a defense that commited 68 errors -- easily the fewest in baseball -- and a bullpen that made it difficult for opponents to score late. RHP Armando Benitez (22 saves, 1.85 ERA, 128 strikeouts in 78 innings) has jump-started his career since arriving from Baltimore via free agency, and his performance has lightened lefty John Franco's workload. Franco has been dependable, with 19 saves and a 2.88 ERA.

The Mets' offense is led by perennial All-Star Mike Piazza (.303, 40 HR, 124 RBI) and 3B Robin Ventura (.301, 32 HR, 120 RBI). 1B John Olerud (.298, 19 HR, 96 RBI) had a solid season, and 2B Edgardo Alfonzo (.304, 27 HR, 108 RBI) has emerged as one of the game's best all-around middle infielders. Acrobatic Rey Ordonez had perhaps the finest defensive season ever by a shortstop, commiting just four errors.

Starting pitching is Manager Bobby Valentine's main concern. RHP Orel Hershiser, 41, had the most wins on the staff (13), but the acquisition of LHP Kenny Rogers in July greatly improved the starting staff.


NL Wild-Card Winner

Projected lineup

1. Rickey Henderson LF

2. Edgardo Alfonzo 2B

3. John Olerud 1B

4. Mike Piazza C

5. Robin Ventura 3B

6. Daryl Hamilton CF

7. Roger Cedeno RF

8. Rey Ordonez SS

9. Masato Yoshii P

Houston at Atlanta

4 p.m., ESPN

For the first time since the early 1990s, the Braves had to play meaningful games in September, and they responded by winning five out of six against the Mets to win their eighth straight NL East title. Their stellar pitching showed some cracks, but not enough to keep the staff from winning 103 games and posting the best ERA in the majors (3.65).

Greg Maddux struggled early in the season, but recovered to finish with a 19-9 record despite having his highest ERA (3.57) since 1987.

The staff ace is Kevin Millwood (18-7, 2.68 ERA), though Maddux will start Game 1.

John Smoltz (11-8, 3.19 ERA) has battled injuries throughout the year, but has been solid lately, not allowing more than two runs in a game since Sept. 4. Left-handed closer John Rocker (2.49 ERA, 38 saves, 104 strikeouts in 72B innings) has answered the Braves' short relief questions.

Although CF Andruw Jones (.275, 26 HR, 84 RBI) and RF Brian Jordan (.283, 23 HR, 115 RBI) had good seasons, 3B Chipper Jones (.319, 45 HR, 110 RBI) has carried Atlanta. He had four home runs and five RBI against the Mets in a September series that all but ended New York's hopes of a division championship.


NL East Champions

Projected lineup

1. Gerald Williams LF

2. Bret Boone 2B

3. Chipper Jones 3B

4. Brian Jordan RF

5. Andruw Jones CF

6. Ryan Klesko 1B

7. Jose Hernandez SS

8. Eddie Perez C

9. Greg Maddux P

The Astros won their third consecutive NL Central title, but not until the final weekend of the season, which surprised many who saw little competition for Houston at the start of the season.

If Houston is going to improve on its past two playoff appearances (it lost in the first round in '97 and '98), it must get more production from its main men, 2B Craig Biggio and 1B Jeff Bagwell, who have struggled in the postseason. But the pressure on them may be even greater because of the loss of LF Moises Alou, who was injured for the entire season.

CF Carl Everett (.325, 25 HR, 108 RBI), who easily had the best season of his career, and oft-injured 3B Ken Caminiti (.286, 13 HR, 56 RBI) will try to give some support to Biggio and Bagwell.

But the Astros' biggest strength is starting pitching. LHP Mike Hampton (22-4, 2.90 ERA) had a Cy Young-caliber season, and RHP Jose Lima (21-10, 3.58 ERA) has won 37 games over the past two years.

RHP Shane Reynolds (16-14, 3.85 ERA) struggled down the stretch, but is still as good a third starter as there is in the majors.

Left-handed closer Billy Wagner (4-1, 39 saves, 1.57 ERA, 124 strikeouts in 74C innings) has been dominant.


NL Central Champions

Projected lineup

1. Craig Biggio 2B

2. Stan Javier RF

3. Jeff Bagwell 1B

4. Carl Everett CF

5. Ken Caminiti 3B

6. Daryle Ward LF

7. Tony Eusebio C

8. Ricky Gutierrez SS

9. Shane Reynolds P