- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

Baseball writer Mark Zuckerman ranks the week's most talked-about stories:

1 ATTACK OF THE FANS
Isn't it nice, though, to see father and son spending quality time together?
2 YANKEES CLINCH
Yep, we were holding our breaths on that one.
3 CARDINALS CLINCH
OK, that one was legitimately exciting.
4 BORDICK: 103 GAMES WITHOUT AN ERROR
Coincidentally, that's how long it's been since anyone cared about the Orioles' season.
5 SEVEN METS SMOKING POT?
That would explain the giant bowl of Cheetos in the Shea Stadium clubhouse.
6 MLB DEMANDS UNIFORM UNIFORMS
Good to know they're spending their time on matters of real importance.
7 SAMMY SLAMS NO. 498
You mean the Cubs are still playing?
8 TORBORG WILL RETURN TO MANAGE MARLINS
Um, why?
9 A.L. CY YOUNG: ZITO, PEDRO OR LOWE?
And don't forget, there's still time for Scott Erickson to make a late charge.
10 PINIELLA GOES BONKERS
Wouldn't you like to see him take on the attacking fans?

AROUND THE LEAGUES
NATIONAL
BRAVES

If Chris Hammond can make it through the next week without giving up an earned run, he'll have completed one of the most remarkable seasons by a relief pitcher in modern history. Through Saturday's games, the left-handed set-up man had given up eight earned runs in 74 innings equating to a staggering 0.97 ERA. Since 1900, only two pitchers have posted a sub-1.00 ERA in a minimum of 70 innings: Dennis Eckersley (0.61 ERA, 70⅓ innings in 1990) and Ferdie Schupp (0.90 ERA, 140 innings in 1916).
CARDINALS

Scott Rolen's diving grab to end Friday night's game clinched the N.L. Central for St. Louis and capped one of the most emotionally wrenching seasons a ballclub has ever endured. "It's almost overwhelming," manager Tony LaRussa said. "I've been part of ballclubs that were expected to win. But this has been different for everyone connected to it. There's no way anyone could have anticipated this. To do what these guys have done. … I'm literally in awe of this ballclub."
CUBS

Surprising as it may be, Chicago (not Arizona) leads the majors in strikeouts by pitchers this season with 1,255. Of course, the Cubs also lead the majors in strikeouts by hitters with 1,212. Four different players have whiffed at least 130 times Mark Bellhorn (141), Corey Patterson (138), Sammy Sosa (135) and Alex Gonzalez (130). The last team to lead the majors in strikeouts, both at the plate and on the mound, was the Union League's Boston franchise in 1884.
DIAMONDBACKS

Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are embroiled in a down-to-the-wire race for the N.L. Cy Young Award, but neither of Arizona's aces is expected to pitch this week against St. Louis. The reason: Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly doesn't want the Cardinals to get any kind of advance look at his two star pitchers before the two meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Diamondbacks are on the verge of clinching, setting up a rematch of last year's five-game Division Series thriller.
DODGERS

If Los Angeles loses the N.L. wild card to San Francisco, they need look no farther for the reason than their starting pitching, which has collapsed over the last month. Once the Dodgers' biggest strength, the rotation has been besieged by injuries and ineffectiveness. Hideo Nomo and Odalis Perez (6-1, 3.08 ERA in September) have done their part, but the rest of the group (Andy Ashby, Kazuhisa Ishii, Kevin Brown, Omar Daal and Kevin Beirne) has gone a combined 1-7 with a 5.51 ERA this month.

AMERICAN
ATHLETICS

Oakland is 37-14 since July 25, which by no coincidence was the same day the club acquired leadoff man Ray Durham from the White Sox. The A's batting average is 11 points higher and their run production is up 0.8 per game since Durham's arrival from Chicago. "When you come to a new team, you try to do whatever you can," Durham said. "I just want to contribute."
ANGELS

Though they essentially clinched a postseason berth a week or two ago, the Angels were careful not to speak about it before it became official. They've got good reason for it: Anaheim has a history of dramatic late-season collapses. The 1995 Angels blew a 13-game lead in August, last year's team went 6-21 in September and the 1982 and '86 squads (the last two to make the playoffs) fell apart when they had a chance to go to the World Series.
ROYALS

Of all the bizarre aspects to Thursday's fan attack at Comiskey Park, perhaps none was as strange as the choice of targets: Kansas City first base coach Tom Gamboa. Baseball people around the sport were stunned to find out that one of the nicest guys around was the man in the middle of the melee. "They picked the wrong guy, that's for sure," Orioles first base coach Rick Dempsey said. "Tom Gamboa wouldn't hurt a fly."
TWINS

Minnesota GM Terry Ryan has plenty of difficult decisions to make this offseason, not the least of which is whether to sign new closer Eddie Guardado to a contract extension. The versatile lefty, who has come out of nowhere to save 43 games this year, is signed through 2003 for $2.7 million. But with free agency coming up in 2004, Ryan may need to offer Guardado a contract extension now to the tune of $5 million a year.
YANKEES

One of New York's most important postseason roster members could be named Rivera. No, not Mariano (although the Yankees closer is vital to his team's chances). Juan Rivera, however, has looked impressive this month and could wind up starting most playoff games in left field. Rivera is batting .311 and has proven to be a strong defensive player. With Shane Spencer battling a hamstring injury and Rondell White still struggling, Rivera appears to be ready to take over.
- Mark Zuckerman

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