World Series set to stage battle of the pitchers

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The Independent Online

There's no arguing with manifest destiny. Following a script written if not in heaven then most certainly in the Bronx, the New York Yankees imperiously swept aside the Seattle Mariners to win the American League pennant, and take aim at their fourth successive World Series.

The Mariners, with a record-equalling 116 regular-season wins were supposed to be the Yankees' toughest challenge. Instead, they crumpled to a limp 4-1 loss in the best-of-seven series.The coup de grâce was a 12-3 rout in Yankee Stadium on Monday evening. Since the 11 September devastation in New York, baseball's most famous venue has become a temple of patriotism, and this week 56,000 fans simply willed the Mariners to comprehensive defeat.

The pivotal game however came the previous evening, a classic post-season pitching duel settled by a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning by the rookie Alfonso Soriano. Had the Mariners won on Sunday, the ALCS would have been tied 2-2, and their manager, Lou Piniella, would have rested easy with his boast that his team would take the series back to Seattle for a sixth game.

Instead, his team simply deflated, and the Yankees proved once more their astonishing ability to raise their game when it matters. "We just become a better club in the post-season," the Yankees manager, Joe Torre, said, "But don't ask me why that is. I just don't know."

Piniella, a former Yankee, is normally one of the baseball's toughest and most competitive figures. But he spent most of Monday sulking in the dug-out. When he finally emerged to make a pitching change with the Yankees already 5-0 ahead, the stadium erupted in taunting chants of "No Game Six".

The World Series which starts on Saturday now promises a fabulous pitching battle. The Yankees' opponents will be the Arizona Diamondbacks, who made short work of the Atlanta Braves to reach the Series just four years after the franchise was set up: the fastest rise in baseball history.

With the veteran Kurt Schilling and the intimidating 6ft 10in left-hander Randy Johnson, the Diamondbacks boast the deadliest one-two pitching combination in the game. But the Yankee starting rotation, if marginally less lethal, goes deeper and may hold the key to the outcome.

Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez are each capable of beating anyone. To prevail, Arizona needs two wins apiece from Johnson and Schilling. Saturday's starting match-up between Mussina and Schilling may set the pattern of the Series.