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Records may fall for RBIs, homers

SHARE Records may fall for RBIs, homers

If the second half of the season is anything like the All-Star game, big numbers are on deck. Really big numbers.

Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa taking aim at Roger Maris' home run record. Juan Gonzalez going for the RBIs mark. The New York Yankees trying to become the winningest team ever.The races all resume Thursday.

For now, baseball is still buzzing about the batty All-Star game Tuesday night. Coors Field was simply offensive, with the American League beating the National League 13-8 in the highest-scoring All-Star game ever.

"It's a hitter's paradise," said Paul O'Neill of the Yankees.

MVP Roberto Alomar and Alex Rodriguez homered for the AL. But the biggest blow was a three-run homer by Barry Bonds, a 451-foot drive to right field.

The Giants star's shot hit the "SF" banner draped from the third deck, about 3 feet from a sign that would've won a lucky fan $1 million. The letters signified "San Francisco," but they might as well have stood for "Slug Fest."

Now, once again, the home runs count for real as McGwire & Co. continue their pursuit of Maris' 61 in 1961. McGwire leads the majors with 37 homers, with Griffey and Sosa also on a pace to break the record.

"Everything people are talking about is a projection," McGwire said. "There's always projections at the All-Star break and nobody realizes the second half is the toughest part of the year.

"Let's be realistic, there's a long ways to go and a lot of things can happen," the St. Louis first baseman said. The Cardinals have 75 games left this season.

The big redhead assures all he's more concerned about keeping his sanity than rewriting the record book.

"My goal is to finish the season without having gray on my goatee," he said. "If this is all gray, I think it's a sign that the pressure hit me."

Gonzalez also might give history a run. He had 101 RBIs at the break, and he has 80 games left with Texas to challenge Hack Wilson's record of 190 set in 1930.

"The thing is staying healthy all season," Gonzalez said. "I'm trying to drive in my RBIs. I'm trying day by day, one at a time."

That's the same attitude the Yankees are taking as they approach records for the most wins.

These Yankees already are 61-20, a winning percentage of .753. For those wondering, the famed '27 Yankees - billed as the best team ever with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig - went 110-44 for a winning percentage of .714.

The AL record for wins is 111 by Cleveland in 1954, and the major league mark is 116 by Chicago Cubs in 1906. Both marks were accomplished in a 154-game season, though no one is about to insist the Yankees need an asterisk this year.

"I don't think I'm surprised because of the talent that we have on this team," said perfect-game pitcher David Wells, the AL starter in the All-Star game.

"Certainly we don't have any 25-30-home run guys," he said. "We're doing it fundamentally. It's not just one guy. All 25 guys are heroes on this team."

None of the Yankees was elected by fans to start the All-Star game, not that any of the Yanks seemed bothered.

"People check their egos at the door," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "We all want to win, and it doesn't matter how we do it."

"We don't have the marquee names," O'Neill said. "When we take the field, we expect to win."

Jeter was one of five Yankees picked as either reserves or pitchers to represent the club in Denver. Being surrounded in the locker room by the likes of Roger Clemens and Cal Ripken did not faze Jeter at his first summer classic.

"It doesn't feel different, being here," he said. "I feel like I'm on an All-Star team every day."

And every day, it seems someone new plays the starring role.

Hideki Irabu led the pitching staff early, now Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez is emerging. Darryl Strawberry has hit some big home runs, rookie Ricky Ledee won a game a week ago.

And remember, the one player the Yankees signed in the offseason to hit home runs - DH Chili Davis - played only a couple of games before being injured.

This is a team that leads Boston by 11 games in the AL East, yet insists it is not even looking past Thursday night's game at expansion Tampa Bay.

"We haven't thought ahead to September," third baseman Scott Brosius said. "We haven't thought ahead to August."

Other things to watch as the second half gets going:

- It will be a sibling rivalry at Dodger Stadium today when San Diego visits Los Angeles. All-Star reliever Trevor Hoffman pitches for the Padres and his brother, Glenn, is the new manager of the Dodgers.

- Alomar might be among several high-priced Orioles on their way out of Baltimore. Owner Peter Angelos wants to start making trades if his disappointing team does not soon move into wild-card contention.

- The wild-card race in the NL is shaping up as a nice chase, with the Giants, Cubs and Mets bunched.