Baseball's big weekend begins
ATLANTA, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The final weekend of baseball's regular season gets underway tonight with none of the three division titles having been decided in the National League.
The Atlanta Braves, however, can wrap up the East Division crown tonight with a victory over the Florida Marlins while the St. Louis Cardinals can clinch a postseason berth with a victory over the Houston Astros.
In San Francisco, meanwhile, Barry Bonds will be seeking his 71st home run. He equaled Mark McGwire's single-season record of 70 with a ninth-inning homer Thursday night. His Giants, however, find themselves two games behind Arizona in the race for the West Division title.
The Braves are trying to wrap up a 10th straight division crown -- excluding the 1994 strike season -- which would be unprecedented in professional sports history.
Atlanta holds a three-game lead on Philadelphia with three games left after taking two of three from the Phillies this week at Turner Field.
In the Central Division, the Cardinals hold a one-game lead on the Astros, who visit Busch Stadium to close the campaign. St. Louis can clinch at least the wild card berth, and also a share of the division title, with a win.
The Astros can secure at least a wild card berth with a victory over St. Louis and a loss by the Giants to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
San Francisco is two games behind Houston in the wild card standings. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who are at Milwaukee, can claim at least a share of the division with a win. A victory, combined with a Giants loss, would secure the crown.
Ripken begins final series
BALTIMORE, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Ryan Kohlmeier allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings in his first major league start today, including solo homers to Trot Nixon and Morgan Burkhart, as the Boston Red Sox downed the Baltimore Orioles in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, 5-0.
The game marked the start of the last series in Cal Ripken's career.
Frank Castillo (10-9) tossed seven scoreless innings.
Ripken had one hit -- the 3,184th of his career -- in four at bats, a seventh-inning single to left. He entered the contest mired in a one-for-37 slump, having gone 33 hitless at bats until picking up a single on Thursday.
A crowd of 46,736 attended the Friday afternoon contest to salute the local hero.
Texas seeks revenge against Oklahoma
DALLAS, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Texas and Oklahoma will renew their Red River rivalry Saturday in the highlight attraction of the college football weekend.
The fifth-ranked Longhorns and third-rated Sooners will stage their annual meeting at the Cotton Bowl and for the first time since 1984, both will come into the game unbeaten.
Oklahoma, the defending national champion, has a 17-game winning streak working. Texas is still smarting from their 63-14 defeat at the hands of the Sooners last year. Texas is a three-point favorite.
Longhorn hopes are tied largely to quarterback Chris Simms, a junior in his first season as the permanent starter. Son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, the Texas quarterback is getting his share of Heisman hype.
In the only other game between ranked teams Saturday, No. 2 Florida (4-0) takes on No. 20 LSU (2-1) at Baton Rouge with Gator quarterback Rex Grossman trying for his fifth straight 300-yard passing game.
Florida's high-powered offense has been unstoppable, surpassing 500 yards in all four games. The Gators collected 640 yards last week in a win over Mississippi State, its highest total ever in an Southeastern Conference contest.
Saturday's schedule also will see Joe Paterno of Penn State make another attempt at tying Bear Bryant's all-time record for wins and No. 16 Northwestern try to end decades of frustration against Ohio State.
Penn State hopes to avoid the first 0-4 start in the program's storied history on when its hosts 15th-ranked Michigan (3-1). Paterno entered the season needing only one win to match Bryant's Division I-A mark of 323 coaching victories.
Northwestern hopes to snap a 21-game drought against Ohio State in the first Big 10 Conference night game in the 79-year history of Ohio Stadium.
Top-ranked Miami (3-0) will prepare for next week's meeting with Florida State by hosting Troy State. The Hurricanes have a 12-game winning streak, the second-longest current streak behind Oklahoma. No. 14 Florida State (3-1) is off this week.
The third-longest streak in the nation belongs to No. 10 Washington (3-0), which takes an 11-game run into a Pac-10 Conference date with Southern California.
Arizona has lost six straight Pac-10 games entering its game with No. 8 Oregon (4-0). No. 6 Virginia Tech (4-0) will visit West Virginia and No. 7 Tennessee (3-0) welcomes Georgia.
No. 12 South Carolina (4-0), which escaped with a one-point win over Alabama last week, will host Kentucky and No. 13 Kansas State tries to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since 1998 when it entertains Colorado. Kansas State was a one-point loser at Oklahoma last week.
In other games Saturday, No. 17 Georgia Tech (3-1) visits Duke, No. 18 Purdue (3-0) hosts Iowa, No. 22 Texas A&M (4-0) welcomes Baylor, No. 23 Toledo (4-0) is at Ohio and No. 25 Maryland (4-0) hosts Virginia.
Three-way tie at Michelob Championship
WILLIAMSBURG, Va., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Unheralded Chris Riley had a pair of eagles in a 4-under-par 67 today to grab a share of the lead with Jonathan Kaye and Len Mattiace after the second round of the Michelob Championship.
After firing a 66 Thursday, he eagled the par-5 third and 15th holes Friday to finish 36 holes at 9-under 133. He also eagled the par-5 seventh hole Thursday.
Kaye, who shot a 67 that was bogey free, eagled the par-4 first in the opening round. Mattiace, one of the last players to finish his round Friday, fired a 66.
None of the co-leaders has won on the PGA Tour. Riley has had the best showing, finishing second at The International in August.
Defending champion David Toms was tied for fourth place at 8-under 134. The Ryder Cup team member managed a 70 that put him into a tie with Neal Lancaster (69) and Carl Paulson (66).
Six players are at 135, including young gun Charles Howell III, who fired a 65.
Umpires named for Division Series
NEW YORK, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Bruce Froemming, who is umpiring his 31st season, will be among those who will work during the American and National League Division Series, Major League Baseball announced today.
In the National League, Froemming, Chuck Meriweather, Mike Winters, Brian Gorman, Jim Joyce and Mike Everitt will work the first two games of the series featuring the non-wild card teams and the final three games of the series featuring the wild card.
Froemming will work his sixth division series and third in the last four years.
In the American League, Steve Rippley, Ted Barrett, Kerwin Danley, Jerry Layne, Mark Hirschbeck and Ron Kulpa will work the opening two games as well as Game 5 in the New York-Oakland series as well as Games 3 and 4 of the Cleveland-Seattle series.
Derek Smith suffers knee injury
SANTA CLARA, Calif., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The San Francisco 49ers will be without their leading tackler for at least three weeks.
The 49ers announced Friday that inside linebacker Derek Smith suffered a torn knee ligament during practice on Wednesday.
With a bye on Oct. 21, the 49ers are hoping that Smith will miss just the next two games. San Francisco hosts Carolina Sunday night and visits Atlanta on Oct. 14.
In Smith's absence, the 49ers will use second-year player Jeff Ulbrich, who had been playing right inside linebacker, at the left inside linebacker position. Rookie Jamie Winborn, a second-round pick, will replace Ulbrich.
Signed as a free agent by San Francisco in the offseason, Smith had 37 tackles through the first three games of the season.
Beuerlein out for the season
ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Elbow problems have shelved veteran quarterback Steve Beuerlein for the entire 2001 season.
The Denver Broncos Friday placed Beuerlein on injured reserve, ending his year.
The Broncos surprisingly signed Beuerlein in the offseason as insurance since starter Brian Griese was coming off shoulder surgery, although backup Gus Frerotte had already re-signed with the team. But Beuerlein has been slow to heal from an offseason elbow injury and did not even play in the preseason.
That insurance policy was not needed since Griese has shown no ill effects from the surgery and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month.
The 36-year-old Beuerlein was the Carolina Panthers' starter last season and threw for 3,730 yards and 19 touchdowns with 18 interceptions.
World Cup qualifying nears end
LONDON, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Qualifying for the 2002 World Cup will reach a peak in Europe Saturday and also will near a conclusion in both North and South America with Russia, Italy, England, Denmark, Paraguay and even the United States hoping to claim a spot in soccer's biggest event by the end of the day.
With the draw for next year's competition to take place in less than two months, 19 spots in the 32-nation field remain undecided. At least 10 and possibly 11 of those remaining berths will go to European countries and six of them will be determined Saturday.
The United States, meanwhile, could be pushed to the brink of elimination Saturday in its bid for a fourth straight spot in the World Cup field. But a victory over Jamaica in Boston would keep the Americans very much alive and might even clinch a World Cup spot.
A win by the United States, combined with what would be unlikely losses by both Mexico and Honduras, would wrap up a trip to the event that will be co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.
A final round of games will be played in the North American-Caribbean region in November with the United States traveling to Trinidad & Tobago for the finale. Wins in their last two games would be enough to put the Americans in the World Cup.
Three more games remain in South America's qualifying tournament and Paraguay is the only country that can clinch a spot this weekend. Argentina has already claimed one of the minimum of four positions available.
Most of the attention in South America will be on Brazil, which has struggled to keep alive its streak of having never missed a World Cup.
Brazil is tied for fourth with Colombia and will host Chile on Sunday. The Brazilians are heavy favorites, but a loss in that game could spell big trouble for the traditional powerhouse.
In Europe, six of the nine group titles will be determined. Spain, Poland and Sweden have already wrapped up spots from Europe along with defending champion France. The eventual second-place finishers in each group will take part in a series of playoffs to decide the remaining European qualifiers.