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Atlanta

Hey, remember this team? The Braves still have the best pitching staff in baseball. Atlanta had five pitchers with at least 15 wins in 1998. No team has done that since 1930. An NLCS match-up with Chicago could be fatal for the Braves, however. Atlanta lost six of nine games to Chicago in 1998, including the last five-in-a-row.

Houston

The only post-season qualifiers to have faced Randy Johnson in an Astros uniform are Chicago and Atlanta — both lost. Johnson is as good as everyone says. His postseason numbers will be stunning, and with a little help from Houston's offense, he could carry the Astros to their first World Series title.

San Diego

The Padres have a solid pitching rotation that will keep them in every game. Starting with ace Kevin Brown, who was a member of the Marlins in 1997, and ending with closer Trevor Hoffman, San Diego will make it tough for teams to score runs, especially at home where its team ERA is 2.78. If they want to win the whole thing, though, the Padres need to hit left-handed pitchers better than their .249 regular-season mark.

Chicago

All the Cubs needed to do was win regular-season game #162 to grab the last playoff spot. Instead they'll need to win game #163. The Cubs' pitching staff had a rough September and a rougher August, but the team will go as far as its pitching staff will take it. The offense has Sammy Sosa, who is batting .313 with runners in scoring position and .400 with the bases loaded. Clutch ballplayers like Sosa are what bring titles to cities.

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San Francisco

By winning nine of 11 games down the stretch, the Giants put themselves in position for a World Series run. It's been a great season for San Francisco fans. Of the Giants' 89 victories, 47 have been of the comeback variety. That's because some timely hitting has complemented the team's outstanding bullpen. Since August 1, the Giants have been scoring an average of six runs a game and batting .291 with 73 HR and 315 RBI. They may not be the most talented team in the playoffs, but there's no doubt they're the hottest.






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