Despite numerous injuries and a rookie-laden lineup, the NL East heavyweights won nine of 14 to close to within 11/2 games of the division-leading Nationals and take a four-game lead in the wild-card race. With top starters Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton and top hitter Chipper Jones coming off the DL, the Braves can smell another title. Next week they start a stretch of 19 of 25 games at home.
Lefty Al Leiter got pulled off the scrap heap and put in Yankees pinstripes, but play-by-play star Al Michaels (right) is in an even sweeter spot. With his ABC contract up, he's being courted by NBC for its NFL coverage. ABC/ ESPN's parent company, Disney, has reportedly offered Michaels $12 million to stay on as the voice of Monday Night Football and the NBA--up from the $5 million he made last year.
Allen Iverson drew hoops studs such as Vince Carter and celebs such as Vivica A. Fox to his Celebrity Summer Classic in D.C. (The weekend event included sports tournaments and a kickoff party, and raised money for inner-city kids.) And Michael Jordan is a cover boy once more--on the August Cigar Aficionado, stogie in hand--making news by saying he wants to own a team in Vegas.
How to silence the critics who dissed Cards manager Tony La Russa for starting the underappreciated Carpenter in the All-Star Game? After a scoreless inning in Detroit the 30-year-old righty returned to pitch a shutout, beat Roger Clemens, improve to 14--4 and become the favorite for the NL Cy Young. Carpenter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Attention is not going to change my personality."