The Opening Pitch: If it wasn't apparent by now, baseball's "dog days" of August are so over.
If you weren't paying attention, suddenly the Rockies are the hottest team in the NL. Having just dispatched their nearest Wild Card competition, they are stalking the Dodgers' seemingly insurmountable lead, now 2 games after last night's walkoff thriller.
Meanwhile, the defending champs need to be suddenly concerned about their closer Brad Lidge, whose perfect '08 was such a key to the Phils' title run. Last night, he was being walked-off by the...Pirates. (But the playoff-lock Cards' Adam Wainwright won his NL-leading 15th.)
In the AL, the drama is Wild: Texas is proving its bona fides by beating the Yankees at the Stadium. The Red Sox are re-finding their groove (and landing Billy Wagner). And don't forget the Rays! Meanwhile, the Tigers are saying "Why not us?" by taking down the Angels in back-to-back games.
The point is this: The number of contenders has been whittled down -- but the uncertainty at the top means that it is impossible to predict who will surge in the playoffs. What more can you ask for? (That the Wild Card remains unclear for the final six weeks of the regular season.)
Vick Watch: Andy Reid says Vick will play Thursday night -- which makes the Eagles-Jags game the most intriguing NFL preseason game in the history of the league.
MLB Talking Points
• Johan done for '09: Might as well, right?
• Zack Watch: Still relevant! KC-record 15 Ks.
• Fantasy Stud: Josh Willingham (4/4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R).
• Stud 2: Adam Wainwright. (Wins NL-tops 15th.)
CFB: SN Countdown No. 10 Oklahoma State, which would normally be one of those teams that is in line for "one of those years" where finally -- finally -- all the pieces are there to win a national title. Oh, except for Texas. And Oklahoma. But they will be the best 2-loss, 3rd-place-in-their-own-division team in college football, if that's any consolation. (Seriously: If Texas is going to lose, the best shot is at Stillwater, when OSU will be catching the Longhorns coming off Oklahoma and a road trip to Mizzou.)
CFB Conference Preview: Pac-10, where the biggest drama is whether Oregon can (finally) dethrone USC as the king of the conference. Don't forget to check out the league superlatives, which should start with Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli.
More CFB Conference Previews: Big East, a league so maligned that it can't even generate a Top 25 team. You know you're in trouble when Dave Wannstedt coaches your highest-ranked team. I personally favor Cincy and the brilliant Brian Kelly. At least the league boasts Noel Devine, arguably the most exciting running back in college football. More superlatives here.
NFL Draft: Carlos Dunlap is the highest-rated DE in the 2010 Draft (via Russ Lande). Mel Kiper has him No. 3 on his Big Board, which means that if a team with a franchise QB in place -- cough, Lions, cough -- Dunlap could go 1st overall.
Isiah Thomas Watch: Isiah can't even do preseason tournament scheduling without incident. The Coaches vs. Cancer tournament matched Isiah up with UNC. Not wanting to lose by 70 to the defending champs in his first game at FIU, Thomas balked, and insisted on playing Ohio State. Welcome to FIU, Isiah: You have zero leverage.
Jail Time: Tim Donaghy, back in prison. (Parole violation)
The Last Word: "I'll still have the God-given ability to snag footballs; that's what I love to do. Of course, I want to play again." -- Plaxico Burress, on his NFL future. Needless to say, he won't command the same kind of intrigue as Mike Vick.
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff.
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