Double jeopardy

It's not easy to put both ends of a starting battery on the disabled list in one inning. But that's exactly what St. Louis' Albert Pujols did Wednesday night in San Diego.

First, Pujols smacked a liner at right-hander Chris Young, bloodying and breaking his nose. Then, later in the inning, Pujols slid hard into catcher Josh Bard on a play at the plate, leaving Bard with a sprained left ankle. The next day, both players went on the DL. Young has multiple fractures in his face.

Pujols was shaken by the havoc he had wrought, especially on Young, and went hitless in his final three at-bats.

"It was a pretty tough night," Pujols told reporters after the game. "After that, I couldn't concentrate on my other at-bats. I kind of had flashbacks."

The streak is over

Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francoeur said it felt like a weight was lifted from his shoulders when manager Bobby Cox decided to rest him in the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday against the New York Mets.

Francoeur had started 370 consecutive games, dating to Oct. 1, 2005, the longest active streak in the majors. He had been in a prolonged skid at the plate, batting .211 with no homers and seven RBIs in his last 19 games.

"It was weird, but I needed (to rest) tonight, mentally more than anything else," Francoeur said after the game. "It's more important for me to get back on track than any streak. The last week has been a mental grind for me. It wasn't fun. It was definitely the right decision. ... I just needed a night off to rest, to get back to enjoying the game."

Francoeur certainly enjoyed himself the next night, going 3-for-4 with a triple, homer and four RBIs in an 11-4 pounding of the Mets. And on Saturday, he hit a walk-off, two-run homer against Arizona.

Thriller 'B'

The Houston Astros will retire Craig Biggio's No. 7 at Minute Maid Park on Aug. 17, before the Astros play Arizona. Biggio, 42, retired last season after playing his entire 20-year career with Houston. The seven-time All-Star is the franchise's career leader in hits, games, runs scored and at-bats.


TEAM . . . . . Last week

1. Arizona Diamondbacks . . . . . 1

Mobile (Ala.) BayBears (20-27)

2. Boston Red Sox . . . . . 5

Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs (29-18)

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim . . . . . 2

Arkansas Travelers (23-24)

4. Chicago Cubs . . . . . 3

Tennessee Smokies (17-32)

5. Tampa Bay Rays . . . . . 4

Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (21-26)

6. Chicago White Sox . . . . . —

Birmingham (Ala.) Barons (28-21)

7. Florida Marlins . . . . . 10

Carolina Mudcats (28-20)

8. St. Louis Cardinals . . . . . 8

Springfield (Mo.) Cardinals (20-27)

9. Baltimore Orioles . . . . . 6

Bowie (Md.) Baysox (30-18)

10. Oakland Athletics . . . . . 7

Midland (Texas) RockHounds (24-23)

Dropped out: Cleveland Indians — Aaron Morton

Fantasy tips

The fantasy baseball season usually follows a similar path every year. There is an assessment stage, a tweaking stage, a big-decision stage and an auto-pilot stage

ASSESSMENT: The first stage lasts for about the first six weeks of the season when fantasy owners take stock of their teams and try not to overreact to the early developments. It's also when some major bargains routinely appear on the free agent wire. Those kinds of players can make a tremendous difference in a league's final standings. The encouraging thing: There's still plenty of time left this season to find another one.

TWEAKING TIME: The second stage of the fantasy season is one we're entering right about now. It's when owners are forced to take a realistic look at their teams and see them for what they are: serious title contenders, teams bound to improve, teams in need of retooling or teams that already are looking toward next season.

THE ROAD AHEAD: The tweaking stage can last for several months before the next major point in the fantasy season arrives: the big decision. It's when an owner must determine if winning a championship is realistically possible. Especially in keeper leagues, the point of no return coincides with the trade deadline. A title contender might be able to give up future returns for one or two missing pieces, while a team that's out of the running will be looking to rebuild for next year. — USA Today