- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) Cal Ripken's victory lap at Safeco Field gave baseball a great reason to smile. Now, it's time to get serious.

The second half of the season is starting let the races and trades begin.

The Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies are all trying to hold onto their surprising first-place perches.

Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez are still chasing Mark McGwire's homer record, and Rickey Henderson is aiming at Ty Cobb's runs mark.

The Boston Red Sox are hoping Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra are soon healthy so they can make a run at the New York Yankees. The Atlanta Braves are trying to overcome Rafael Furcal's injury and Los Angeles is doing the same with Darren Dreifort.

Only Ichiro Suzuki, Freddy Garcia and the Seattle Mariners can relax. With a 19-game lead over Oakland in the American League West, they can start printing playoff tickets although there's no chance manager Lou Piniella will allow his players to let up.

The second half starts this afternoon at Wrigley Field when the Chicago White Sox travel across town to play the Cubs.

The Cubs, with a three-game edge over Houston in the National League Central, seemed poised to make the first big trade after the break.

Wanting to add power, the Cubs were close to getting slugger Fred McGriff from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for two players in the minors.

"That would be great," Cubs star Sammy Sosa said, his eyes widening.

Pitchers Sterling Hitchcock of the San Diego Padres, Pedro Astacio of the Colorado Rockies and Ugueth Urbina of the Montreal Expos could be on the move.

It's unlikely, however, that David Wells will be dealt by the White Sox before the July 31 trading deadline. Out of action with an injured back, the left-hander might need season-ending surgery.

The Mariners, the most impressive team in the majors at 63-24, could add a quality pitcher and a productive bat to play left field before August. Seattle is pretty loaded, having put a record eight of its players in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

The three-time defending World Series champion Yankees are traveling to Florida, where they'll give the Marlins a first-hand look at what other top AL teams might face in the postseason.

Mike Mussina starts tonight, followed by All-Stars Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.

Derek Jeter, who became the first Yankees player to homer in the All-Star Game since Yogi Berra in 1959, said New York's fate depends on Clemens. The Rocket is 12-1, tied with Arizona's Curt Schilling for the most wins in the majors.

"It all revolves around him. We feed off Roger," Jeter said. "The man just knows how to win."

Yankees manager Joe Torre, meanwhile, offers praise to Jeter.

"He wears the game on his sleeve and there will come a day when he'll be like Ripken as one of those people we're looking to hold onto," he said.

Schilling, who ducked out of starting the All-Star Game in order to be ready for Arizona's game at Anaheim tomorrow night, and Randy Johnson hope to hold off Bonds and the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

Bonds leads the majors with 39 home runs, still putting him ahead of McGwire's pace when he hit 70 in 1998. Gonzalez, who beat Sosa to win Monday's home run derby at Seattle, is next with 35.

Henderson would like to make history in two ways down the stretch. He needs 40 hits to reach 3,000 and 29 runs to break Cobb's career record of 2,245.

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