ARE they legitimate contenders ... or just July teases?
The Boston Red Sox are tantalizing their fans again. After falling out of contention early the season, the Red Sox sprinted to the All-Star-game midseason break by going 15-4. In the process they've helped turn the American League East race into a tossup, with five teams only a game or two apart in the standings.
A case can be made for Boston winning the division. They have a solid pitching staff: Superstar Roger Clemens is back from the disabled list and the Sox's bullpen is one of the deepest around. The hitting, however, has been sporadic, and the team defense is considered to be, ahem, of less-than-championship caliber.
In just 21 days, the Red Sox climbed from 13 games out of the lead to two behind first-place New York and Toronto, which cooperated by losing 10 of 11 games before the All-Star break.
The emergence of youngsters Aaron Sele and Paul Quantrill give the Sox six high-quality starters. Greg Harris is a workhorse middle reliever, and Jeff Russell is a reliable closer.
The top of the order has been the catalyst in the recent surge. Scott Fletcher is batting .278 and Billy Hatcher a team-high .317. Neither began the year with a starting job.
Mike Greenwell has rebounded from an injury-plagued season and is batting .308. Andre Dawson struggled early in the year, but has hit better lately. He has the talent at the plate to carry the team in the second half. Mo Vaughn, expected back from the injured list soon, is batting .310, with 13 homers and 56 RBIs.
Meanwhile, don't assume world champion Toronto and New York, the preseason favorites, will stand pat. A late-season trade that brings a pitcher to the Blue Jays or a power hitter to the Yankees could make all the difference and flatten the pennant hopes of Red Sox fans once again. Norman sets record at British Open
Australian Greg Norman shot a 267 - including a six-under-par 64 in Sunday's final round - to win this year's British Open. The 267 was 13 under par for four rounds and was seven strokes better than any other golfer in the 122-year history of golf's oldest tournament. "It was one of those days," the Australian said. "I felt like I never hit a shot out of the middle of the club." It was Norman's second win at the British Open and his 63rd professional victory overall. Tour de France heads for the hills