The Orioles and the Cardinals were of a feather—improbably perched atop their respective divisions at week's end. After St. Louis's 4--3 road trip, pitcher-turned-slugger Rick Ankiel (above) and mates play 15 of 19 at home. And do the O's have Schadenfreude? Ex-ace Erik Bedard, traded to Seattle, was out with an inflamed hip.
With the Mavericks scuffling and the regular season coming to a close, Dirk the Magnificent returned ahead of schedule from ankle and knee injuries, lifted Dallas to three wins and hit the buzzer-beating three-pointer that clipped the Jazz and secured the Mavs' place in the playoffs.
Maybe last year was no fluke. After going 12--9 as a lightly regarded rookie, the Royals righty was 3--0 with an 0.86 ERA through Sunday and feeling the groove. Warned Bannister after three-hitting the Twins, "I can go on hot streaks."
April 20, 2008
Richard Childress Racing
RCR driver Jeff Burton kept his hold on first place in NASCAR's Sprint Cup standings, and he knows where to go to toast his success. Wine Enthusiast named team owner Richard Childress's vineyard, 60 miles north of Charlotte, one of the U.S.'s top 25 tasting rooms.
So much for all that good feeling about their new home digs and the three wins to open the season. Nine straight losses, the franchise's worst streak since 2000, dropped the Nationals to the bottom of the NL East. They were hitting a big-league-worst .232, with slugger-turned-slumper Austin Kearns (above) at .238 with zero home runs.
The former NFL passer (a Dolphin, mainly, he retired in 2006 at 34) started slow in his new career: beach volleyball player. Jay the Novice and partner Marcos Macau were swatted down 21--13, 21--14 in Fiedler's AVP debut. Said Fiedler, who was winded, "It's definitely a lot tougher than it looks."
Maybe last year wasn't a one-off. After going 11--13 in his first year as a wealthy Giant (a seven-year, $126 million free-agent deal), the lefty was 0--3 and drawing boos at home. And San Fransicans thought their days of Barry angst were over.
He not only coulda been, he was a Contender. The reality-TV star (a semifinalist in the 2005 series) was badly pummeled by WBA welterweight champ Miguel Cotto. Gomez (left) was floored three times before a doctor stopped the fight after Round 5.
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
Which team will win the WORLD SERIES?
Detroit Tigers ...........45%
Boston Red Sox .............24%
New York Mets ..............8%
Chicago Cubs ...............3%
Los Angeles Angels ..........3%
New York Yankees ...........3%
Players couldn't vote for their own team.... Poll was finished in early April, before the Tigers and Carlos Guillen (right) had slipped to 2--10, the majors' worst record through Sunday.... Despite a slumping David Ortiz (left) the Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees last weekend.... The Indians and the Diamondbacks were the only other teams to receive more than 2% of the vote.
[Based on a survey of 473 MLB players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.