Marlins, Yankees set to meet in World Series


Friday, October 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6




The last time the New York Yankees faced Florida, Josh Beckett was a merely a prospect, Dontrelle Willis was barely out of high school and Tony Perez was the Marlins' manager.

Yep, a lot has changed since that weekend back in 2001.

Beckett blossomed into an ace, Willis turned into a rookie sensation and 72-year-old Jack McKeon became the manager.

Yet one thing remains the same _ the path to the World Series championship still goes through Yankee Stadium.

After both clubs capped remarkable rallies this week, it'll start Saturday night with Game 1 in the Bronx.

The Yankees earned their way Thursday night with a stunning comeback, beating Boston 6-5 in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the AL championship series.

Now, all those familiar October faces _ Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera _ will try to win the Yankees' 27th title.

The unbelievably resilient Marlins clinched their trip Tuesday night, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs 9-6 in Game 7 at Wrigley Field.

Now, NLCS MVP Ivan Rodriguez will try to lead wild-card Florida to its second title in only 11 years of existence.

If anything, it's an intriguing matchup.

The Yankees bring a roster full of postseason veterans. Joe Torre's team features a proven pitching staff led by Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Wells and Rivera, guys who have made their living winning big games.

Along with their pitching, they rely on power. Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Jorge Posada can all pop the ball out of the park, and Hideki Matsui had 106 RBIs.

The wild-card Marlins certainly grew up this month. Miguel Cabrera, a 20-year-old rookie, made major contributions at the plate and in the field, the 23-year-old Beckett blew away the Cubs and the 21-year-old Willis got a taste of postseason pressure.

Florida relies on its pitching _ though Willis, Redman and Brad Penny all struggled with starts in the NLCS _ plus speed. Leadoff man Juan Pierre led the majors with 65 stolen bases and the Marlins swiped 150 overall.

McKeon will be the oldest manager to lead a team into the Series, and is sure to be popular with fans around the country. All during the NLCS, his kooky comments made him a contender to become baseball's next Yogi Berra.

With the DH in play at Yankee Stadium, there's no doubt Mike Lowell will be in the Marlins' starting lineup. An All-Star third baseman, he missed most of the final month because of a broken hand and had trouble regaining his timing before hitting two key homers in the NLCS.

For Lowell, it should be a happy return to New York. The Yankees traded him to the Marlins before the 1999 season in a deal for Ed Yarnall and two other young pitchers, and Lowell quickly turned into a prime player.

The teams have met 14 times in interleague play, with the Yankees holding an 8-6 edge. When they last faced each other right after the 2001 All-Star break, Pro Player Stadium was packed with transplanted New Yorkers and Jeter had trouble with the ballpark's lights.