Since leaving the DL (right wrist) on June 10, the 2004 AL MVP has been putting a hurt on pitchers, batting .432. In a 2--1 win over Florida last Saturday, he hit a game-tying HR in the eighth inning, then another in the 10th. Manager Mike Scioscia to the L.A. Times: "Vladdy's been on a tear for what, seven years now?"
Skipper's Chiba Lotte Marines are leading the Japan League, behind his ex-Mets Benny Agbayani and Matt Franco. And the chief is being hailed--the marching band from Valentine's alma mater, USC, was to play at Chiba Marine Stadium this week. Meantime the Mets, who played .534 ball in Valentine's seven seasons, have been at .434 since he was let go in 2002.
Yankees had won six straight and were chirruping about new $800 million stadium, to open in 2009. Looking just as sharp in pinstripes--as he walked away with the U.S. Open (page 42)--was Mike Campbell.
Nine wins in a row lifted the Tribe to within a game of the AL wild card. They have a league-best 3.50 ERA, closer Bob Wickman has 20 saves, and they may be just getting started. DH Travis Hafner: "I don't think anybody is satisfied, not as long as the White Sox ... are still in front of us."
The three-time NL batting champion is plagued by chronic injuries (right knee, left hand, neck) and was batting just .253--60 points below his career average. At 38 he's talking about hanging up his spikes and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "My body is going to tell me when enough is enough. And it's really getting there right now."
Time to relive some bad memories. The tennis ump who got kicked out of Wimbledon after erroneously awarding a point to Karolina Sprem in a match against Venus Williams last year has been allowed back on the grounds of the All England Club--but just barely. He can only do lesser matches such as those in junior competition.
After tiremaker said its tires couldn't safely handle track at Indy, 14 in the field of 20 withdrew from Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix. On Monday shares of company stock dropped about 1%.
Rockies, an NL-worst 22--45, have dropped nine of 12 games. They've got a league-high 5.67 ERA, a league-low 10 saves, and their $12.6 million-a-year All-Star Todd Helton was 8 for 41 and hitting .160 against lefties this year. Said manager Clint Hurdle, "We are facing a lot of challenges."
SI PLAYERS POLL
Which closer do you most hate to face?
[Based on a survey of 450 MLB players]
Eric Gagne 34%
Mariano Rivera 31%
Brad Lidge 9%
John Smoltz 5%
For complete results and a breakdown of the poll go to SI.com/scorecard.
FAST FACTS: Gagne, who got 46% of the vote from players with 10 or more years' experience, went on the DL last week with a torn ligament in his right elbow and may miss the rest of the year.... Smoltz had 154 saves in 31/2 seasons before returning to his starter's role this year.... Lidge, 28, had not been a closer before last June but had a big-league-high 17 saves after Aug. 15. He has 16 this year.
CHRIS CARLSON/AP (GUERRERO)
CHUCK SOLOMON (WALKER)
ROBERT BECK (GAGNE, CAMPBELL PANTS)
TWO COLOR PHOTOS
APICHART WEERAWONG/AP (MICHELIN MAN)
DAVID BERGMAN (RIVERA)