- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Jacque Jones was talking about his Minnesota Twins. The feeling goes for everybody.
"This is something we've looked forward to since the start of the season," the outfielder said. "Now we're not on strike and we have to take full advantage. We're playing baseball now, that's all that matters."
Finally, the focus is back on the ballgames.
With the labor conflict resolved, players and fans can turn their full attention to the September stretch drive.
Pennant races, wild-card chases, stars closing in on milestones there's plenty to get excited about and no telling what the final month might hold.
Here's a quick look at a few things to keep an eye on:
The wild-card races. Shawn Green and the Dodgers are neck-and-neck with longtime rival San Francisco for an NL playoff spot. They play each other seven more times.
The refreshing Anaheim Angels have built a small lead in the AL thanks to a relentless brand of hit-and-run baseball under manager Mike Scioscia. The Angels are looking for their first postseason berth in 16 years, but watch out for the Red Sox, who don't play a team with a winning record after Sept.4.
The AL West-leading Oakland Athletics. With a starting rotation to rival any in the last 30 years, the A's reeled off their 18th straight win yesterday the longest streak in the majors since the 1953 New York Yankees won 18 in a row.
Without a strike to worry about, maybe nothing can stop Oakland.
"When you're dealing with streaks you're dealing with momentum, and you don't want to see it disrupted," general manager Billy Beane said.
The Atlanta Braves. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and friends should wrap up their 11th consecutive division title soon an amazing accomplishment. Now if they can just capture that elusive second World Series title.
The St. Louis Cardinals. In a season filled with tragedy and turmoil, general manager Walt Jocketty keeps wheeling and dealing in an effort to bring America's best baseball city its first championship in 20 years. Scott Rolen will get his first taste of the postseason if the Cardinals can hold off Houston in the NL Central.
The Twins. They've escaped contraction for at least four years, and Torii Hunter and the gang could pose problems in the earsplitting Metrodome come playoff time. The bullpen is terrific, but they probably need a healthy Eric Milton to beat the big spenders in October.
Barry Bonds. The Giants incomparable slugger entered yesterday with a .574 on-base percentage. The previously unthinkable record of .553 was set by Ted Williams in 1941. Bonds could also win his first NL batting title (he's never finished higher than fourth). With a .371 average, he led Larry Walker by 19 points.
Curt Schilling. The Arizona Diamondbacks ace is trying to become only the second pitcher since 1980 to win 25 games in a season Bob Welch won 27 for Oakland 12 years ago. Schilling (21-5) probably has five more starts to win four times.
Alex Rodriguez. He's got 48 homers. Imagine a shortstop hitting 60? He'd have to win the AL MVP, even for the last-place Texas Rangers.
Alfonso Soriano. The 24-year-old New York Yankees second baseman can become the fourth player with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases. In just his second major league season, Soriano has 34 homers, 37 steals and a great shot to join Jose Canseco, Bonds and Rodriguez as the only players to accomplish the feat.
John Smoltz. The Atlanta closer came into yesterday with 48 saves, nine shy of Bobby Thigpen's big league record. Smoltz figures to at least break the NL mark of 53 shared by Trevor Hoffman and Randy Myers.
Sammy Sosa. Sidelined by a sore neck for the past week, the Chicago Cubs star still needs seven homers to reach 500.
And don't forget about the Yankees, shooting for their fifth straight AL pennant. After last season's crushing loss to Arizona in Game 7 of the World Series, nobody wants to win more than George Steinbrenner.

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