First, your updated playoff seedings:

AL: Tampa Bay (1) vs. Texas (3), Minnesota (2) vs. Yankees (4)

NL: Philadelphia (1) vs. Cincinnati (3), San Francisco (2) vs. Atlanta (4)

Thoughts: The Padres are out of the NL West penthouse for the first time since June 16 . Can they rebound? I don't know. You look at their roster and you wonder how they ever got to first place in, well, the first place.

The Reds and Giants currently have the same record, 83-64. The Giants get the seeding edge because of their 4-3 advantage in head-to-head play.

And now, onto the predictions...

1. The Yankees will bounce back from the difficult start to their road trip by taking two of three games from the Orioles in Baltimore. Andy Pettitte will provide a particularly encouraging outing Sunday, allowing a run in six innings in his first start since July 18.

"Well, first of all, the groin is real good," Pettitte will say afterwards. "Second of all, I gained confidence thinking about previous success I've experienced here in the greater Baltimore-Washington area."

Derek Jeter, meanwhile, will get a little carried away by his acting triumph of Wednesday night, and try to build upon it. Tonight, he'll pull the old, "I dropped my contact lenses!" bit in order to get out of a rundown. Tomorrow night, he'll feign an illness so that Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters will gain sympathy and tell him what pitches are coming. And on Sunday, in his biggest stretch of all, he'll pretend to like Alex Rodriguez.

2. The Rays, in sweeping the Angels at home, will pick up another game on the Yankees, setting up next week's four-game get together at Yankee Stadium. The only concern will be Carl Crawford, who will raise eyebrows by running into five third outs at third base during the series.

""People can say it was a dumb play all they want, but that's the way we play, and I'm sticking to that," Crawford will say, again. "I don't care what Jorge Posada thinks. Nobody puts The Perfect Storm in a corner."

3. In Bobby Cox's final visit to Citi Field, the Braves will sweep the Mets in three games, doing their best to stay alive in the races for the NL East and the NL wild-card. The Mets will find a silver lining in that they don't suffer any more pitching injuries, but behind the scenes, they'll continue to work on replacing soon-to-be-deposed general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel.

They'll expand their manager search beyond Bobby Valentine and Wally Backman to include other former Mets managers, other former Mets second basemen (Teufel) and, since they're hoping for the new manager to generate buzz and ticket sales, other well-known figures with ties to the Mets.

4. The Dodgers will drop two of three to Colorado at home, slinking further toward elimination. And with the world wanting to know what he'll do next year, Joe Torre will have an epiphany.

"Why not milk this for everything it's worth?" Torre will realize. "Hey, does anyone have the phone number for ESPN?"

--I'll be shutting it down for 24 hours at sundown tonight, to observe Yom Kippur. A parting thought, to provoke discussion: If you ran the Mets, whom would you hire as general manager and manager?

Me? I'd go for it. I'd pay whatever it took to bring in Kevin Towers and Bobby Valentine. They're both good evaluators of talent who think out of the box. They're both strong personalities, but I think they could peacefully coexist.

They're both friends with Brian Cashman, who is a big fan of both, so maybe the Yankees' GM could help the Mets' baseball operations function better.

Well, maybe not.

--Have a great day.


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