August 15, 2003
Red Sox vs. A's:
Red Sox rallied Thursday for 2-2 split in heavyweight series. Boston's August remainder is brutal, but September should be breezy.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
VALUABLE.  MATCHUPS.

Forget "Freddy vs. Jason:" The week's end is loaded with much bigger battles, like "Albert vs. Barry."

With Pujols' hit streak at 28 (and counting) and Bonds going on the bereavement list, let's take stock of the tight NL MVP race. Bonds is better, but here are three external factors that will help AP:

* Hit-streak pub: Highly overrated (i.e., a 162-game hit streak, going 1-for-4 every game, nets you all of a .250 average), but it's a natural sound-bite bullet-point for Pujols' MVP platform.

* Scoreboard watching: With the Cards in a NL Central menage a trois, Pujols' team will be at the top of every highlight show; Bonds is actually hamstrung by leading his team to a ho-hum division runaway.

* "Bonds fatigue": BB could win the MVP every year (and pretty much has), leading voters to think, "Sure, Barry's awesome, but let's give someone else a turn."

Lefty vs. Destiny
There's already an unfair volume of Mickelson-haters out there (saying that as a fan), but his strong first-day showing at the PGA Championship must be discounted until an actual got-to-see-it-to-believe-it first-place finish on Sunday. Any Rodney Pampling can have a good opening round (except, apparently, Tiger Woods).

'Stros vs. Cards vs. Cubs
NL Central Standings, 8/15/03:

Team       W  L GB
Houston   64 57 --
St. Louis 64 57 --
Chicago   63 57 .5
'Nuff said.

SIGN IT'S NFL PRESEASON: SATURDAY FOOTBALL FIX
THE SET-UP: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
1 NFL: Full slate of games. Bills at Titans on Sat night
2 MLB big series: Cards at Phillies; Red Sox at Mariners
3 X Games: Must-see to stay hip with the kids
THE SIT-DOWN: DROP THESE FROM YOUR HOT LIST
1 Dissing Ken Dorsey: Got job done leading 49ers past Oak
2 Ben Curtis: British Open champ loses touch in PGA Rd. 1
3 Power: Sure, A/C is nice, but NYers made best of outage
 
Vick vs. Lewis
The NFL's best players on either side of the ball may only be on the field together this weekend for a few snaps, but don't think "preseason" will keep Ray Lewis from giving Mike Vick a "Week 12"-style lick.

Skate vs. Surf
Most popular event of the X Games? The newest: surfing, and not just because it's ultra-trendy. It's arguably the most visually stunning sport anywhere -- and that's just the participants. (This matchup is more accurately labeled: Baggy shorts vs. Bikinis. No contest.)

Freddy vs. World
14-year-old U.S. soccer prodigy Freddy Adu's hat trick Thursday at the Under-17 World Championships underscores this: Like no other U.S. athlete,

Adu carries the entire weight of his sport's future. He can single-handedly lead soccer to "major" status in the U.S., but not for three years -- when 17-year-old Freddy delivers the U.S. a World Cup title in 2006.

AI vs. Kobe
Want a template for talking your way out of Kobe Bryant jury duty? "... You can go get Allen Iverson because Allen Iverson's had brushes with the law before. But to go get Kobe Bryant -- the squeaky clean human being -- it's got to be something." -- Allen Iverson, SportsCenter Sunday Conversation.

Rich Beem:
PGA Championship's 2002 Cinderella won't be repeating. He opened with a brutal 12-over 82. (But, hey, he still has one more major than Phil.)
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
P2: Sports Guy mailbag
Golf: PGA Championship
NFL: Training Camp
 
"Weekend Flick" Edition
Open Range
Tiger struggles, PGA up for grabs
 
Freddy vs. Jason
Try "Adu vs. World"
 
Grind
Red Sox playing hellish August
 
SWAT
More tuneup for US hoops
 
Uptown Girls
... Like candlelight dinners
 

If you think the Browns QB snafu is over when Butch Davis names a starter this weekend, better book time on your shrink's Couch ...

Big Ten to test instant replay (meaning less chance for Ohio State "lucky break") ...

Even bigger? B10 removing home-team pep band from behind visiting bench at hoops games ...

Braves' Russ "Right Place, Right Time" Ortiz first MLB pitcher to 17 wins ...

Tigers awarded MLB's 2005 All-Star Game. Ironically, team on track to have no representation ...

A clever jokester put Yankees pitcher Jeff Weaver up for sale on Ebay. The Yankees could only wish ...



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