Boston Red Sox
After sixth straight win first baseman Kevin Millar shouted, "We're going to the Series, boys!" After seventh straight they were 2 1/2 games up on Orioles in the AL East. And the sizzling Sox have an ace in the hole: Curt Schilling is scheduled to come off the DL after the All-Star break.
He can't recall Kobe Bryant's name, but he was heady enough to land an MBA from the University of Phoenix, which, he says, sets him up for when he has to "have a regular 9 to 5 like everybody else." Also, says Shaq, who'll earn more than $41 million this year (page 65), the degree means he can talk to "Mr. Gates and Mr. Trump ... on the same level that they have their conversations."
With fourth gear gone and third gear going, he was just getting revved up in Sonoma. Steering with one hand (the other held his gearshift), he got his 20th career win and moved to fourth in the standings. Said Stewart, "An awesome day, obviously."
Twelve homers in 15 games--including a game-winner last Saturday--gave him the major league lead, with 24. Since the Braves' other Jones, Chipper, went down with a foot injury on June 6, Andruw (.368 average) has Atlanta (winners of 8 of 10) rising in the NL East.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Plagued by injury (J.D. Drew, below, Eric Gagne), they absorbed a painful insult last weekend, getting swept by their rivals in Anaheim to close out a 2-11 road trip. With Dodgers five games below .500 (35-40) for the first time since 1999, pitcher Derek Lowe said, "Thank God this road trip is over." But yikes: L.A.'s 19-17 home record is the NL's third worst.
Milwaukee native was fired as Bucks coach with the team about to make the first pick in the NBA draft. Despite a 30-52 record, Porter was taken aback by the firing ("I had no clue," he said), perhaps because at a press conference last month G.M. Larry Harris put an arm around Porter and said, "We're going to sink or swim together."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A crash on the third lap at Sonoma led to a 42nd-place finish and dropped him to 18th in the points race, badly wounding his chances to qualify for the season-ending title Chase. Says the driver, "I'm just frustrated that we put ourselves in this position."
Seven homers this season--19 fewer than he had this time last year--has him on pace for his lowest full-season output. While some fans clamor for first base prospect Ryan Howard (.378, 15 HRs at Triple A), Thome, 34, is a big reason Phillies (losers of 7 of 8) are falling in NL East.
SI PLAYERS POLL
If you could pick one player to build a team around, whom would it be?
[ Based on a survey of 450 MLB players ]
Albert Pujols 24%
Cardinals first baseman
Derek Jeter 12%
Yankees shortstop (right)
Carlos Beltran 10%
Alex Rodriguez 10%
Yankees third baseman
For complete results and a breakdown of the poll go to SI.com/scorecard.
FAST FACTS: These four average $17 million in 2005 salary.... Pujols got 31.1% of the vote from the AL East, double what Jeter and Rodriguez combined (15.5%) got from the division.... Angels OF Vladimir Guerrero was fifth (9%).... Red Sox starter Curt Schilling was the top vote-getter among pitchers (1%).
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (ORTIZ AND RAMIREZ)
ROBERT BECK (DREW)
ALLEN FREDRICKSON/REUTERS (PORTER)
BOB ROSATO (STEWART CAR)
BRAD MANGIN (PUJOLS)
CHUCK SOLOMON (JETER)