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The Matchup

Times Staff Writer

The wait is over. The journey was 42 years in the making for the Angels, 13 years for the Giants. And it has been five days since the last playoff game, plenty of time to examine all things essential to this Fall Classic, from noise sticks and rally monkeys to the differences between North and South in the fourth all-California World Series. On the field, give the Angels the edge at first base, third base, center field, right field and the bullpen; the Giants the advantage at catcher, shortstop, second base, left field and starting pitching. The pick? Angels in six games.

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Left field

Barry Bonds (SF) vs. Garret Anderson (Angels): The Giants have the best hitter of our generation in left, one of only four players in major league history to have hit 600 home runs, but Anderson is no slouch. He is one of baseball’s most consistent run producers, a left-handed batter who hits left-handers as well as right-handers, and a dependable defender. No other player, however, strikes more fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers and managers than Bonds, who set major league records this season for walks and intentional walks.

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Edge: Giants.

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Center field

Kenny Lofton (SF) vs. Darin Erstad (Angels): He doesn’t steal bases the way he used to, and his arm is suspect, but Lofton’s resurgence in the last two months of the season, after he was acquired from the Chicago White Sox on July 28, helped propel the Giants into the playoffs. Lofton is hitting .293 in the playoffs and has scored nine runs in 10 games. Erstad, a good gap hitter with home run power who is as much an offensive catalyst as leadoff batter David Eckstein, is not the prettiest defender, but he has great closing speed in the gaps and is fearless when it comes to diving and crashing into walls.

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Edge: Angels.

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Right field

Reggie Sanders (SF) vs. Tim Salmon (Angels): Salmon is not the most agile of defenders when he has to go back on balls or deep into the gap, which could be a problem in Pacific Bell Park, which has a spacious right-center field alley. After struggling with injuries in two of the last three seasons, Salmon has seen his power stroke return, enabling Manager Mike Scioscia to bat him third. Sanders has great tools -- he runs well, throws well and has good speed and power -- but he has been in a funk in the playoffs, batting .147 with one RBI.

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Edge: Angels.

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Third base

David Bell (SF) vs. Troy Glaus (Angels): Bell, who is batting .303 in the playoffs, doesn’t have great speed or power, or a rifle for a throwing arm, but there’s a reason he’s in the playoffs for the third consecutive season -- he’s a sure-handed defender who makes the plays he should, and he has delivered clutch hits at the bottom of the order. Glaus, who is batting .314 with four homers and five RBIs in the playoffs, has one of baseball’s most fluid power strokes, which enables him to hit home runs to left or right field. He has a quick defensive first step, despite his size, and one of baseball’s strongest infield arms.

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Edge: Angels.

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Shortstop

Rich Aurilia (SF) vs. David Eckstein (Angels): Aurilia didn’t look very comfortable for most of the season, slumping to a .257 average, 15 homers and 61 RBIs after his breakout 2001 season (.324, 37 homers, 97 RBIs), but he has hit his stride in the playoffs with four homers and 12 RBIs. Eckstein can be a pest in the leadoff spot -- he’ll open the game with a nine- or 10-pitch at-bat that can fluster an opposing pitcher. He’s a great baserunner, and what he lacks in skill he makes up for in heart.

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Edge: Giants.

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Second base

Jeff Kent (SF) vs. Adam Kennedy (Angels): Kent hit .313 with 37 homers and 108 RBIs in the regular season but seems to be pressing in the playoffs (.263, one RBI, 11 strikeouts). If he gets hot, though, Kent, who is adequate in the field, can carry a club. Kennedy was Babe Ruth for a day, hitting three homers in the ALCS-clinching victory over Minnesota, but that was an aberration--he hit only seven during the regular season. Kennedy has made significant strides defensively since last season.

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Edge: Giants.

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First base

J.T. Snow (SF) vs. Scott Spiezio (Angels): Spiezio’s improvement from the right side -- he hit .368 with six homers and 35 RBIs against left-handers, up from his previous .241 career average against them -- was a key component in the Angels’ 30-16 record against left-handers. Spiezio, who is hitting .375 with a team-leading 11 RBIs in the playoffs, also has improved so much defensively he is being touted as a Gold Glove candidate. Snow has no peer defensively -- he’s the best in the major leagues, a veteran who can save as many runs with his glove during a series as he can knock in. He also has had several timely hits in the playoffs.

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Edge: Angels.

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Starting pitchers

RH Jason Schmidt (SF) vs. LH Jarrod Washburn (Angels) in Game 1; RH Russ Ortiz (SF) vs. RH Kevin Appier (Angels) in Game 2; RH Livan Hernandez (SF) vs. RH Ramon Ortiz (Angels) in Game 3; LH Kirk Rueter (SF) vs. RH John Lackey (Angels) in Game 4: Schmidt was almost untouchable in the NLCS, giving up one run and four hits in Game 2. The late action on Washburn’s fastball can be tricky and the left-hander seems unfazed by postseason pressure.

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Edge: Giants’ staff.

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Catchers

Benito Santiago (SF) vs. Bengie Molina (Angels): All season, the 37-year-old Santiago has made opponents pay for pitching around Barry Bonds. Molina has the defensive edge over the strong-armed Santiago, but he doesn’t hit for power, and his lack of speed can clog up the basepaths.

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Edge: Giants.

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DH/ Bench

IF Ramon Martinez, OF Tom Goodwin, OF Tsuyoshi Shinjo, 3B Pedro Feliz, C Yorvit Torrealba (SF) vs. IF Benji Gil, 1B Brad Fullmer, IF Shawn Wooten, C Jose Molina, OF Alex Ochoa, OF Orlando Palmeiro, IF Chone Figgins (Angels): There is virtually no power on the Giant bench; Dusty Baker’s reserves are slap hitters who run well and, in Martinez’s case, play very good defense. Wooten and Fullmer provide plenty of power in the DH spot and give Mike Scioscia pinch-hitting options in San Francisco.

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Edge: Angels.

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Managers

Dusty Baker (SF) vs. Mike Scioscia (Angels): This could be Baker’s last week as the San Francisco manager, and if he doesn’t return, his players seem determined to send him out a winner. Both Scioscia and Baker can be unorthodox, calling for a stolen base when few would expect it, or sending a runner on a full-count pitch to a hitter who doesn’t make consistent contact. Both teams have a loose but confident air about them, which is a good reflection on their managers.

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Edge: Even.


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