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A'S WILD-CARD HOPES MAY BE BLOWN AWAY.

Byline: Matt McHale Baseball

Hurricane Floyd did a lot of damage along the Eastern Seaboard this past week and also might have ruined the Oakland A's chances to win the American League wild card.

The A's have a long way to go, trailing Boston by 4-1/2 games with two weeks to go after rookie ace Tim Hudson lost Friday for the first time in his past eight decisions.

But the storm is one they might not be able to weather. Floyd's fury canceled Tuesday and Wednesday games against the Orioles, forcing the A's to come back to Baltimore on Thursday to play a makeup doubleheader.

Wednesday they will be in Oakland, and fly on to Texas after the doubleheader.

``I know I can use a day off,'' first baseman Jason Giambi said. ``For me lately, getting a day off is getting to DH.''

That's the way it is in a pennant race, even if you are repulsed by the thought of a wild card. In a sport trying to regain its place with TV viewers, baseball has plotted its course, for better or worse.

There is too much on the sports menu to let baseball rest until the World Series. A bad Monday night football game still gets better ratings than a World Series game.

There is Trinidad/De La Hoya, Miami/Penn State and the NFL every Sunday.

Fortunately, there are some great matchups during the final two weeks of the baseball season. Here is a travelogue to the playoffs:

Yes, maybe this weekend's Indians/Yankees series in Cleveland would have been a classic in the old setup.

But this series is not just for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Yankees, reeling earlier in the week, won four straight until losing Saturday. The action is stirring and clearly one of those teams will reach the World Series.

The Yankees' chances of finishing with the best record improve because of the schedule. After leaving Cleveland, they do not play a team with a winning record the rest of the way.

Cleveland has six games left with Toronto, which had wild-card hopes until an awful September.

The Indians are hoping they can revive former ace Jaret Wright for the postseason, but after Friday's loss to the Yankees, he might have trouble making the rotation.

Wright lasted just 3-2/3 innings, walking seven and allowing seven runs.

Beginning Tuesday, Atlanta and the New York Mets will play six times in nine days. The Braves have battered the Mets all season, but their lead in the East certainly will be tested.

Mets fans are carefully watching this weekend's series with the free-falling Phillies. Last year, the Mets were swept by the lowly Expos in the final week and never recovered. They finished a game out in the wild card but bounced back this year to become one of baseball's most exciting teams.

Is the curse of last year's Expos series being played out by the Phillies, who dropped 18 of 20 before beating the Mets on Friday night?

Cincinnati, which trails the Mets for the final playoff spot, has two games left with division-leading Houston next week at the Astrodome.

Before that, the Reds will play on the road against San Diego and at home against St. Louis.

Although most think the Reds will be the odd team out of the postseason, it might actually be easier for the Reds to win the Central than win the wild card.

Oakland doesn't have that luxury. Texas is way out in front in the AL West and Boston refuses to falter in the wild-card race.

If you have any baseball left in you after this season's meltdowns by the Dodgers and Angels, you might want to see the A's in Anaheim for three games next week.

Even with the Angels playing, it will be the best show in town.

STAT OF THE WEEK

After the 1996 season, White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas had 50 more home runs than Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa. Thomas now trails Sosa by 31.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

``Of all the players that have played this game, for me to be the first one, I'm proud.``

_Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa on bieing the first man to hit 60 homers twice in a career.

CAPTION(S):

photo, 2 boxes

PHOTO Hurricane Floyd might have dealt a blow to Oakland's wild-card bid with two washouts last week.

Associated Press

BOX: (1) Stat of the week (see text)

(2) Quote of the week (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 19, 1999
Words:754
Previous Article:NATIONAL LEAGUE AROUND THE HORN: ASTROS APPEAR TO BE SAFE BET.
Next Article:COMMENTARY: DE LA HOYA WAS DANCER, NOT FIGHTER, IN SNOOZER.


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