In Sports from United Press International

Oct. 7, 2002 at 3:41 PM
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Braves, Giants to settle issue

ATLANTA, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The San Francisco Giants Monday night will try to become the first team to rally from a two games to one deficit in the National League Division Series when they face the Atlanta Braves in a decisive Game Five.

The National League has never had a team rally to win the Division Series after losing two of the first three games. Six teams have accomplished the feat in the American League, but only two when the fifth game was on the road.

The Minnesota Twins won the final two games of the ALDS against Oakland this season, including Game Five in Oakland on Sunday.

The Giants kept their season alive and forced the do-or-die Game Four with an 8-3 victory Sunday. Livan Hernandez pitched eight-plus strong innings, and Rich Aurilia homered and drove in four runs for San Francisco, which won an elimination game for the first time since 1962.

The Giants are trying to win their first postseason series since 1989, when they beat the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series before losing to the Athletics in the World Series.

The Braves are trying to advance to their second straight NLCS and 10th in 11 seasons. They fell to 6-2 in Division Series-clinching games, and are 10-5 all time at Turner Field in the NLDS.

Kevin Millwood makes his second start of the series for Atlanta on Monday. He was scheduled to start only Game Three before pitching Game Two in place of Greg Maddux, who had a blister on his pitching hand.

Millwood (1-0, 3.00 ERA) helped the Braves even the series with a win in Game Two, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven.

"He was excellent (in Game Two)," said Giants Manager Dusty Baker, whose team also may have to fend off rumors that Baker will be taking another job when the season is over. "That's the best we've seen him throw. I see why they said he's been throwing as good as anybody in the league. The last six weeks or so, he's the best pitcher on the staff. Judging from how he threw the other day, I understand how they can say that."

"He's always had good mound presence, and I think that's important," said his Atlanta counterpart, Bobby Cox. "I think a lot of that has rubbed off on Tommy Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux through the years."

Millwood is 17-3 in 26 starts dating back to May 24.

San Francisco has not defeated a righthander in the playoffs since Chicago's Mike Bielecki took the loss in Game Five of the 1989 NLCS.

Russ Ortiz (1-0, 2.57) tries to duplicate his Game One performance for the Giants. In that contest, he allowed just two runs and five hits in seven innings as San Francisco posted an 8-5 win in the series opener.

Ortiz is 5-1 with a 3.74 ERA in 11 career postseason appearances, including 10 starts.

"We have full confidence in a rested Russ," Baker said. "Hopefully Russ will come out of the series 2-0."

Knicks hit Sprewell with huge fine

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The New York Knicks Monday slapped a whopping $250,000 fine on veteran guard Latrell Sprewell

for failing to inform the team that he broke his right pinky on Sept. 20, two weeks before the start of training camp.

Sprewell had surgery last Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined at least six weeks.

Knicks President Scott Layden, Coach Don Chaney and Madison Square Garden President Steve Mills met with Sprewell Monday at the team's Westchester County (N.Y.) practice facility before hitting him with the fine. He left the facility without speaking to reporters.

Layden emphasized that Sprewell was not officially suspended, but the injury will likely force him to miss the first two weeks of the regular season.

Management was not overly concerned with how Sprewell broke the hand, but rather why he waited 10 days to inform them of what had happened.

"He has a responsibility to let us know," Mills said. "He has an obligation to do that."

Sprewell violated a clause in the collective bargaining agreement by not reporting his injury promptly, but will likely appeal the fine.

The clause states, "the player agrees to provide to the team's coach, trainer, or physician prompt notice of any injury, illness or medical condition suffered by him that is likely to affect adversely the player's ability to render the services required under his contract, including the time, place and nature of such injury, illness or condition."

There have been numerous reports that Sprewell suffered the injury during a skirmish on his yacht, but his agent, Bob Gist, claimed Sprewell busted his hand while he guided the yacht into safety after the boat was hit by a big wave.

The Knicks were known in the past for excusing Sprewell for many transgressions. He skipped all of training camp in 1999 without explaining, and routinely arrived late for games during his four seasons in New York.

Chaney, who replaced Jeff Van Gundy as Knicks coach last season, was clearly upset by Sprewell's latest episode.

"I'm worn out now on the Latrell Sprewell situation," Chaney said after Sprewell failed to return his phone calls the last few days.

When he overslept and missed a shootaround in Miami last April, Sprewell was suspended one game, which cost him $125,000. James Dolan, an executive for Cablevision, which owns the team, later rescinded all but $2,500 of that fine.

The sometimes volatile Sprewell is best known for choking his former coach, P.J. Carlesimo, while with the Golden State Warriors and was suspended for the majority of the 1997-98 season. He was traded to the Knicks during the 1998-99 campaign.

Sprewell averaged 19.4 points last season, but the Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Huggins out of hospital

CINCINNATI, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins Monday morning was released from The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. He will continue his recovery from the heart attack he suffered on Sept. 28 at home.

Huggins will appear at the team's Breakfast with Bob program and speak to fans and media before Saturday's first official practice session of the upcoming campaign.

"The coach "experienced significant heart muscle damage," said Dr. Dean Kereiakes, CEO of Ohio Heart Health Center and Huggins' personal physician. "However, tests performed under my supervision were encouraging and show objective evidence of improvement. Bob is making tremendous progress and tests show that he should recover further. Mr. Huggins will be monitored continually and proceed with further treatment and management of care. He will begin cardiac rehabilitation and was prescribed heart medication designed to improve heart muscle and reduce his risk for future attacks."

Huggins, 49, suffered a heart attack in Pittsburgh while on a recruiting trip. He was at the Pittsburgh airport when the incident occurred. He was taken to the Beaver Medical Center in suburban Pittsburgh.

Huggins, was transferred to the Christ Hospital on Oct. 2, underwent a heart catheterization and a stent placement for management of an acute myocardial infarction. Dr. Kereiakes credits Beaver for providing aggressive and expeditious care.

Huggins is the second-winningest active coach in Division I with a 500-172 record and .736 percentage in 21 seasons. He has led the Bearcats to postseason play in each of his 13 seasons at Cincinnati, and his 1991-92 squad reached the Final Four at the NCAA Tournament.

He and his wife, June, have request that donations be made to the Cincinnati chapter of the American Heart Association.

Hocking may be lost to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The surprising Minnesota Twins are facing the possibility of playing the balance of baseball's postseason without veteran utility infielder Denny Hocking, who suffered a finger injury in the pile of teammates that landed in the middle of the field after they eliminated the favored Oakland Athletics Sunday in the American League Division Series.

Hocking ran to the infield to join his teammate in celebration and, at some point in the big pile, got his hand stepped on, breaking the fingernail on his right middle finger.

"Obviously, we haven't figured out this whole celebration thing," Hocking said, tongue-in-cheek.

The finger will require "a bunch of stitches," Hocking told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The finger do did not appear to be broken. He had the finger treated in the trainer's room after the celebration.

"Hopefully, I can still be a part of this," said Hocking, referring to the start of the American League Championship Series at Anaheim Friday. Ironically, Hocking resides in Anaheim.

In the clincher against the A's, Hocking had two hits and drove in the game's first run.

Packers, Bears in NFL spotlight

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The Green Bay Packers, who recorded a season sweep last year, Monday night will play the arch-rival Chicago Bears in the weekly NFL Monday night special.

In his career, Favre is 16-4 overall against the historic series. His 38 touchdowns against Chicago is the most versus any NFL team.

Last season, the Packers swept both games with the Bears -- 20-12 at Chicago on Nov. 11, and 17-7 on Dec. 9. Favre passed for 475 yards and three touchdowns and has won 14 of the last 16 meetings.

Ahman Green provided Green Bay with a solid running game, rushing for 218 yards in the sweep, while the Packers held Chicago's Anthony Thomas to 99 yards on 37 carries.

On Monday, Favre will face a defense that is missing four starters because of injuries.

Weakside linebacker Warrick Holdman, the Bears' second-leading tackler in 2001, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery last Monday to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. Holdman sustained the injury in the first quarter of last week's 33-27 overtime loss to Buffalo.

Mike Caldwell, a 10-year veteran who started all 16 games for the Philadelphia Eagles last season and signed with the Bears as a free agent, will replace Holdman.

Defensive tackle Ted Washington will miss the next 10 weeks with a torn ligament in his left foot and hairline fracture of his left leg. Defensive end Phillip Daniels suffered a sprained left ankle and cornerback R.W. McQuarters a sprained MCL in his left knee in the Bears' season opener. Both are expected back sometime last this month.

The Packers escaped with a 17-14 win over the Carolina Panthers last week.

Favre, a three-time NFL MVP, can achieve a personal milestones in the game. In his 166th career game, he can become the third-fastest quarterback ever to reach 40,000 passing yards with 262 more yards. Dan Marino is first with 153 games and Warren Moon second with 165 games. Also, Favre is five touchdown passes shy of becoming the fourth quarterback in history to reach 300.

Chicago leads the series, 83-73-6, but the Packers have won 16 of the last 19 meetings since 1992.

Couch goes off on Browns fans

CLEVELAND, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Tim Couch, who struggled against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night before being sidelined with a concussion in the fourth quarter, unleashed a profanity-laced verbal tirade on fans of the Cleveland Browns after the contest.

On an errant snap by center Dave Wohlabaugh, who was playing with a broken hand, Couch chased the ball down and took a shot to the head from Baltimore linebacker Peter Boulware in the end zone. He finished 16-of-26 for 216 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Couch left the game with 10:09 remaining with what was described as a mild concussion. Before getting hurt, he struggled and the fans at Municipal Stadium were chanting for his backup, Kelly Holcomb, to replace him earlier in the second half.

"I've been in this city four years now and I've laid it on the line," Couch said. "For them (fans) to turn on me and boo me, it's a joke, it's a (bleeping) joke. I'm lying in the end zone hurt, and they're cheering. That's (bleeping) bull(bleep). Today really got to me. I do feel the players and coaches believe in me, but it's tough having to fight two battles, playing against the Baltimore Ravens and being booed in your home stadium. This is not how I wanted it to be, but I guess this is the way it is going to have to be."

Holcomb finished 13-of-23 for 180 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

Browns Coach Butch Davis was not sure or would not say if the contest led to a quarterback controversy.

"I'll have to see the film to see exactly how Tim played," Davis said.

Couch, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft, was sidelined by arm and elbow ailments when the regular season began and was replaced by Holcomb, who completed 44-of-69 passes for 524 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Browns' first two games.

LSU running back out with broken arm

BATON ROUGE, La., Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Injury-plagued LaBrandon Toefield, the top running back for 15th-ranked LSU, Sunday underwent surgery to repair the fractured radius in his left forearm, according to head coach Nick Saban.

Toefield, an All-Southeast Conference selection at tailback last season, suffered the injury Saturday in the second quarter of the Tigers' 48-0 homecoming win over Louisiana-Lafayette. He is expected to be out of action for at least six weeks.

LSU team doctor Brent Bankston performed the 45-minute surgery.

"The fracture was relatively a clean break and it went back together very easily," said Bankston. "The surgery required the placing of a plate along with seven screws into Toefield's arm to stabilize the bone. He will be in a cast for at least four weeks and will begin therapy after that."

Toefield, a junior from Independence, La., had played in all five games for the Tigers this year, and ranked second on the squad with 323 yards. He earned First Team All-SEC honors in 2001 after rushing for 992 yards and 19 touchdowns, the latter tying a league record.

For his career, Toefield has rushed for 1,997 yards and 26 touchdowns in 27 regular season games for the Tigers.

He missed most of last year's SEC Championship game and all of the Sugar Bowl after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in the first half of the Tigers' 31-20 win over Tennessee.

"This is a very unfortunate injury," Saban said. "LaBrandon worked so hard to come back from last year's knee injury that it's a shame that something like this has to happen. Toe's a great person and a fierce competitor and someone we are going to miss on the field. Right now, our main concern is doing whatever we can to support him."

Saban said Toefield, who redshirted in 1999, likely will not be granted a medical waiver from the NCAA to get a extra year of eligibility because of the injury because it probably is too late in the season.

Also, he missed his senior season at Independence (La.) High School because of a torn ACL in his left knee, was hurt against Ole Miss in both 2000 and 2001, missing the Arkansas game in 2000 as a result of a sprained knee and missing the second half of the Ole Miss game in 2001 with a sprained ankle.

If rehab goes well, Toefield might be able to play in the Tigers' last two regular-season contests, Nov. 23 against Ole Miss and No. 29 at Arkansas.

Orlando makes two training camp cuts

ORLANDO, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The Orlando Magic Monday trimmed their roster to 18 by waiving guard Corey Benjamin and forward-center Jabari Smith.

Benjamin, 24, a first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls in 1998, spent last season in Italy with the S.S. Sutor Montegranaro and in the American Basketball Association with the Southern California Surf. He signed with Orlando on Sept. 23. He has averaged 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 14.2 minutes per contest in 144 NBA games, all with the Bulls.

Smith was bothered by a knee injury last season. He averaged 5.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 11 games with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 6-11 Smith was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. He has averaged 3.1 points and 1.1 boards in 32 career games.

Orlando plays its first preseason game Tuesday at Atlanta.

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