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Head-to-head: Phillies vs. Yankees

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

NEW YORK – Spend some time working through the Phillies and Yankees, what they might look like together on a diamond over a week or more, and maybe the difference is Mariano Rivera(notes) in the eighth and ninth innings, or Ryan Howard(notes) in a pair of ballparks that seem built with him in mind, or Chooch Ruiz at a big moment, or Alex Rodriguez(notes) operating at full-blown, April-to-September capacity.

Ask anybody in these parts what separates the New York Yankees from the Philadelphia Phillies and you probably get: 24 championships, 33 pennants, "and Jersey."

But there'll be less to it than that, starting Wednesday night at The Stadium.

Filled with stars and personalities and egos and, well, more stars, here's how a potentially great World Series will break down:

Phillies

Who has the edge?

Yankees

Catchers

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Ruiz
EDGE EVEN

Carlos Ruiz(notes). He doesn't hit much in the regular season, but he is improving. Every October he delivers something (or two things, or three) big for the Phils. Maybe he's overlooked down in the eight hole. Or maybe pitchers are looking for a rest by the time they get to him. Also, the pitching staff loves him. The whole pitching staff.

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Posada
EDGE EVEN

Jorge Posada(notes), (above), Jose Molina(notes). So, A.J. Burnett(notes) has been assigned to Jose Molina. Well, Burnett's postseason ERA is almost 4½ and he's walked 10 in 18 1/3 innings. So, if Burnett is going to give up runs – and these are two hitter-happy ballparks – he might be better off having another big-league hitter in the lineup. Posada didn't produce much in the first two rounds, but Molina is close to an automatic out.

First Base

Ryan Howard. The NLCS MVP, Howard seemingly hasn't missed an opportunity in the first two series. His 14 RBIs lead the postseason – it helps to keep playing – and he terrorized the Los Angeles Dodgers, who walked him six times and still couldn't stay out of his way. He's taking the ball away to left-center field and the ball in to right field, usually loudly.

Mark Teixeira(notes). A huge regular season has given way to – dare we say it? – an A-Rod-ian October. Yes, he's handy around the bag. Yes, he's saved a small handful of errors on wayward throws from his infielders. He's also hitting .205. The Yankees didn't spend all that money to get Mike Jorgensen. Good news for the Yankees, he swung the bat better over the final two games of the ALCS.

SECOND BASE

Chase Utley(notes). Assuming the wacky throws and headlong leaps to Chuck Knoblauch were a passing phase, Utley is among the most complete players in the game. He also has exactly two RBIs (and one extra-base hit) in these playoffs. The World Series could turn on which No. 3-hitter – Teixeira or Utley – gets hottest fastest.

Robinson Cano(notes). His rebound regular season – he was sixth in the AL in batting, sixth in runs scored, fifth in batting average against righties – has led to a rather soft postseason. The Yankees certainly seem better off with Cano if the weather stays warm. He, of everyone on the field during those cold nights, looked least comfortable. Cano was on base a lot in the ALCS, so apparently he is seeing the ball better.

SHORTSTOP

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Rollins

Jimmy Rollins(notes). The former MVP had a down regular season (certainly a down first half), and a down first two series, right up until the moment he broke Joe Torre's heart. And that's kind of the point about Rollins. While he hasn't seen many big nights, he doesn't scare off the big moments, and that's why the Dodgers and Jonathan Broxton(notes) never did get back into the NLCS. He's also a Gold Glover.

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Jeter

Derek Jeter(notes). Young again, Jeter has played what amounts to most of an entire season (609 plate appearances) in Octobers and, OK, November. His on-base percentage this October is .435, which propels a Yankee offense that was at its finest in Game 6 against Joe Saunders(notes). In Saunders' 3 1/3 innings, the Yankees had seven hits and drew five walks. It's who they are, and what he starts.

THIRD BASE

Pedro Feliz(notes). Considering he typically bats seventh, Feliz gives Charlie Manuel pretty good production, though for some reason he went to Philadelphia and lost his home run stroke. During the regular season he was ninth in the NL in hitting with runners in scoring position, though drove in only two runs in the division and league championship series.

Alex Rodriguez. A little professional and personal humility appear to have gone a long way for A-Rod, who suddenly is everything the Yankees could have hoped him to be – the best player on the field. He crushed the Twins, then crushed the Angels and easily could have been MVP over CC Sabathia(notes). Oddly enough, he's batted only .260 at the new Yankee Stadium.

LEFT FIELD

Raul Ibanez(notes). That very productive first half flattened out in the final months, but the Phillies could hardly complain about Ibanez's first season with them. If they did, though, maybe it would be his hitting with runners in scoring position (.233). Still, he drove in nine runs in the Phillies' first two series and is a serious threat behind the Utley, Howard and Jayson Werth(notes). Ben Francisco(notes) could also seem time here in the AL park.

Johnny Damon(notes). He seems to show up at a lot of good times for the Yankees, stuck in there between Jeter and Teixeira in the lineup. A smart guy, Damon figured out early that Yankee Stadium III was going to play short to right field, and went about grooving a swing that would take advantage of it. As a result, he'll be dangerous in both venues.

CENTER FIELD

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Victorino

Shane Victorino(notes). The switch-hitter does every little thing for the Phillies, it seems. He's got a little power, hits for a little average, steals some bases, plays a terrific center field, drives in some runs and wins games in all the little corners. He's batting .361 in the playoffs with seven RBIs, just what you'd figure.

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Cabrera

Melky Cabrera(notes). After winning back the job in the regular season, Cabrera looked during the division series like he was trying to give it back to Brett Gardner(notes). But, with parts of the Yankees' offense not working, he picked it up in the ALCS, where he batted .391 and drove in four runs. Like Victorino, he makes a lot of plays in the outfield.

RIGHT FIELD

Jayson Werth. A wonderful athlete, Werth has blossomed into one of the most productive right fielders in the game on both sides of the ball. While his average has suffered some, he's become a home run threat. It's not just the home park, either; Werth's home and road numbers were pretty close. He's tied with Rodriguez for most home runs (five) this postseason.

Nick Swisher(notes). Joe Girardi stuck with him for Game 6 of the ALCS, but Swisher might be running out of rope. In nine playoff games he has one extra-base hit and 11 strikeouts. Not even the Mohawk worked.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Committee. For the moment, its appears Manuel will open the series against the left-handed CC Sabathia with Ibanez as his DH and Francisco as his left fielder, allowing him Ibanez's bat and the defensive upgrade. Against the right-handed Burnett in Game 2, you'd more likely see Matt Stairs(notes) or Greg Dobbs(notes) at the DH. While that means pop, it also could mean rust: Stairs and Dobbs have eight plate appearances between them in the postseason.

Hideki Matsui(notes). The Yankees haven't seen much of Matsui in the playoffs, not in terms of production. But, he still scares a pitcher, for sure. You certainly know what you're going to get from Matsui, who's the same guy on the road and at home, against lefties and righties. He'll almost certainly get his chances against the Phillies, who might have little choice but to pitch around A-Rod.

BULLPEN

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Lidge

Brad Lidge(notes). It's exciting, and it's edgy, and it's sometimes mortifying, but Lidge has stepped out of his horrendous regular season to hang tough in the playoffs, where he hasn't yet allowed a run. In fact, he hasn't given up a postseason run since the 2008 division series. He has three saves and hasn't blown one, something that can't be said by, oh, Joe Nathan(notes), Huston Street(notes), Brian Fuentes(notes) or either of the Jonathans (Papelbon, Broxton). There've been some rocky moments, but in general the Phillies' bullpen has stood up better than expected. Chad Durbin(notes) and Scott Eyre(notes) have been especially good.

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Rivera

Mariano Rivera. The other playoff closer to have not blown a save. Yeah, him. He did, however, give up a run in Game 6, which would explain the half-mast flags around town Monday. Rivera has no flaws and this time of year he can go six outs at a time. Phil Hughes(notes) and Joba Chamberlain(notes) weren't dominating in the ALCS. Lefties Phil Coke(notes) and Damaso Marte(notes) would figure to be tested against the left-leaning Phils.

STARTING PITCHING

Cliff Lee(notes), Pedro Martinez(notes), Cole Hamels(notes), Joe Blanton(notes)/J.A. Happ. Lee's first playoff experience has been exceptional, having allowed two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings over three starts. Whatever it turns out the Phils gave up for him at the deadline, you'd think the trip to the World Series and the chance to repeat was worth it. The Phils do get somewhat shaky from there, as much as they'd like to believe in that Pedro start at Dodger Stadium and dismiss Hamels' recent outings. The Yankees won't let either off the hook the way the Dodgers did.

CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte(notes). Climb on, boys. Sabathia has dismissed any thoughts that Octobers got a bit large for even him by winning three games, pitching on short rest and asking for more. And while some believed Sabathia should have gotten the start Sunday against the Angels, Pettitte went out and won his 16th postseason game and his fifth playoff clincher. Burnett looks like the weak link here, but he has great stuff.

BENCH

Francisco made a huge catch in left field during the division series and Stairs drew the most important walk of their season in the NLCS, so the Phillies' B teamers already have made their October mark. Eric Bruntlett(notes) has had meaningful roles in previous World Series runs with the Astros and Phillies. Though the DH will alter his routine, Manuel in the playoffs generally runs his eight guys out there and lets them play.

Like Manuel, Girardi doesn't move a lot of guys around. There's not much need to. Gardner and Freddy Guzman(notes) do the pinch-running and Posada will be available to pinch-hit if Molina were to catch Burnett in the NL park. Girardi also could DH Posada and save Matsui for the later innings. Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) was 1 for 8 as a pinch-hitter in the regular season.

MANAGER

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Manuel

Charlie Manuel. He doesn't always say it just right, but you get what he means, and Ol' Cholly just keeps winning. It seems like forever ago since half the town wanted Manuel fired. Now he wins championships and rides in parades. The players accept his authority and play hard for him, no small achievements anymore.

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Girardi

Joe Girardi. After a rocky and ultimately disastrous first season back in New York, Girardi reworked his communication skills, opened his door and found acceptance. He integrated three more stars – Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett – into the clubhouse. He dealt with all that was – is – A-Rod. Partly as a result, the Yankees are back in the World Series for the first time in six years. Girardi gets some of that credit.

More: Y! Sports experts' World Series predictions and schedule

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