Rogers has final word on meeting


California Angels manager Marcel Lachemann learned firsthand last week that talk does not always lead to action. He called his slumping team together for a 57-minute meeting after a Wednesday loss to the Oakland Athletics, hoping to hash things out in time to stay alive in the AL Worst race. The following night, Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers retired 27 out of 27 California batters to become the 12th pitcher in major-league history to pitch a perfect* game. Pardon the asterisk, but it did come against the Angels, who finally ended an eight-game losing streak on Saturday night. . . . The Seattle Mariners might be the only team in baseball that can't wait for Aug. 12. The strike deadline would end a string of 19 consecutive games on the road for the Hole in the Roof Gang, which has a league-worst 18-40 road record.

AL Central

The American League office shortened the sentence against Albert "Things Go Better with Cork" Belle from 10 days to six in a show of leniency that further undercuts the notion that baseball has any real interest in cracking down on cheaters. Billy Hatcher sat for 10 days in 1987 for the same offense, and he didn't have the Impossible Missions Force taking a tour of the stadium ductwork. Belle continues to profess his innocence, and his agent says the reduction was an indication of the uncertainty surrounding the case, but the disciplinary action kept Belle's streak alive. He has been suspended at least once in each of the past four seasons. . . . Somebody throw a bucket of water on the Kansas City Royals, who have gone into their strike stretch kick at just the right time. The Royals completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins yesterday to extend their winning streak to nine games. They have cut their AL Central deficit from 8 1/2 games to 4 1/2 in one week and have moved ahead of the Orioles in the hunt for a wild-card playoff berth.

AL East

The New York Yankees managed to help themselves and the Orioles at the same time this weekend. They swept the Cleveland Indians in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium to extend their dominance over the Indians to 11 straight games. That pushed the Orioles eight games off the pace in the AL East, but actually helped them in the wild-card race, where the O's picked up a game on the Indians. The Orioles are three games behind Cleveland and a half-game behind the Royals in the three-team race for the final seed in the iffy postseason tournament. . . . This is what it has come down to for the Detroit Tigers: The highlight of the week came when catcher Chad Kreuter tied a major-league record with three sacrifice flies in one game. What do you get for four flyouts in a row?

NL West

The Colorado Rockies have only been around for about a year and a half, but they already are knee-deep in an unfriendly rivalry with the San Francisco Giants. And why not? Giants pitchers have knocked two key players out of the Rockies lineup during a summer in which Colorado is -- surprisingly -- right in the thick of the NL West race. Salomon Torres broke Charlie Hayes' cheekbone with a pitch in June, and a pitch by Dave Burba last week left leading hitter Andres Galarraga sidelined up to eight weeks with a broken hand. If the Rockies had any chance of sneaking away with a strike-tainted division title in August, you couldn't find it now with an MRI.

NL Central

Former Orioles and current Cardinals pitcher Rick Sutcliffe was suspended for eight days last week for hitting Rockies pitcher Marvin Freeman with a pitch. Sutcliffe didn't know it at the time, but he would have saved himself two days if he had drilled a hole in the ball and filled it with cork first. . . . There were reports over the weekend that the Pittsburgh Pirates may be put up for sale soon, which could lead to Larry Lucchino's return to major-league ownership. Lucchino, the former Orioles president, is rumored to head one of the groups interested in buying the club. Lest anyone get excited about the Pirates possibly moving to Washington, Lucchino's ties to this area might not be as strong as his ties to Pittsburgh, where he grew up.

It's about time John Kruk got some good news. The Phillies first baseman was sent home to Philadelphia after he detected two lumps on his torso -- lumps that raised fears that there might be a recurrence of the cancer he was treated for in March. It turned out that the lumps were not cancerous, and Kruk rejoined the team in Atlanta. . . . The Montreal Expos have won 12 of 13 games to take a 3 1/2 -game lead in the NL East, but it could all come down to a big divisional showdown this weekend, when the Expos meet the Braves with the division title hanging in the balance. The big question: Does the winner go to the NLCS or the NLRB?

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