After a surprisingly fast start, they keep rollin'. Through Sunday first-placeDetroit had won nine of 10 and 22 of 30 since skipper Jim Leyland screamed atthem after a 10-2 loss on April 17. Buoyed by rookie starter Justin Verlander(above) the big cats had the majors' best ERA: 3.26.
In 12 no doubt agonizing minutes, the 6'1", 230-pound San Jose State junior(left) knocked back 50 hot dogs to set a U.S. record. His next big dog show?The July 4th Nathan's contest at Coney Island, and a much-anticipated matchupwith world champ Takeru Kobayashi of Japan.
Garciaparra, a Dodgers off-season signee, was carrying the team with a .363average and 29 RBIs, and looking good with the leather: The ex-shortstop waserrorless in his maiden turn at first. Said Nomar to the L.A. Times, "I'mnot thinking of it as being hot. I just do my best."
Righty Kris has been an ace for the Orioles (6-3, 3.86 ERA), and saucy wifeAnna (left) isn't crabby about living on Baltimore's waterfront. "It's aplace where we can be romantic," she said.
After a surprisingly fast start, they're fadin'. Cincy had lost seven of nine,scored two runs or fewer eight times in May, and slugger Austin Kearns (right)was 4 for his last 38. Said manager Jerry Narron, "A lot of people expectus to fall off the face of the earth."
Second-round hero (a four-goal game!) was pointless as Ducks fell behind 0-2 toOilers in NHL semifinals. The real rub for the Edmonton native: According tothe Edmonton Sun, his grandpa (part owner of the Oilers) and brother(16-year-old Oilers freak) are rooting for the opposition.
Ortiz, a Nationals off-season signee, has been a huge disappointment: 1-4, 6.15ERA and a fielding terror with three errors. Before struggling throughfive-plus innings to finally get a victory on May 18, Ortiz (right) observed,"When we play good, no win. When we play bad, no win. I'm the sameguy."
The Phils shortstop retired at 33 ("It's been an excellent ride," hesaid of his 13 seasons) frustrated that he was batting .111. The same-named RedSox shortstop wasn't doing much better at .197.
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
Which major leaguer would you most like to see getbeaned?
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox C ...18%
Barry Bonds, Giants LF ...14%
Pedro Martinez, Mets SP ...6%
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees 3B ...5%
FAST FACTS Pierzynski, who drew more than 42% of thevote in the White Sox' AL Central, was slugged in the face by Cubs catcherMichael Barrett last Saturday (page 78).... The Astros' Craig Biggio is theactive leader in being hit by pitches, with 277. A-Rod ranks 12th (100), Bonds13th (97) and Pierzynski 45th (64).... Martinez has hit 123 batters in 14 majorleague seasons.
[ Based on a survey of 470 MLB players ]
• For an expanded version of the poll, go to SI.com/players.
OTTO GREULE JR./GETTY IMAGES (VERLANDER); JOE ROBBINS/GETTY IMAGES (KEARNS); MATT BROWN/ICON SMI (LUPUL); JOHN BAZEMORE/AP (ORTIZ); BOB LEVEY/WIREIMAGE.COM (BONDS); STEVE GRAYSON/WIREIMAGE.COM (PIERZYNSKI); WALTER IOOSS JR. (BENSON); JUSTIN KASE CONDER/US PRESSWIRE (GARCIAPARRA); JAE C. HONG/AP (CHESTNUT)