Player of the week: Magglio Ordonez

Like the rest of his teammates, Ordonez started the season slow, but he has been unstoppable as of late for the Detroit Tigers, who are in the thick of the standings in the uber-competitive AL Central. Over a 10-game stretch, Ordonez raised his batting average nearly 100 points (to .344), while ranking fifth in the AL in on-base percentage (.434), OPS (1.056) and runs (20) and second in RBIs (26). His RBI total for April was the most by any Detroit player since Tony Clark had 27 in 1997.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

For the second time in five years, the St. Louis Cardinals will play the remainder of the season with a heavy heart. After losing Darryl Kile in June 2002, the St. Louis community now has to deal with the tragic death of 29-year-old relief pitcher Josh Hancock, who was fatally injured in a car crash early Sunday. The right-hander played a key role in the Cardinals’ run to the World Series title last season and sported a 3.55 ERA in eight appearances in 2007. In a show of camaraderie for their fallen teammate, the Cardinals will sport Hancock’s No. 32 on their jerseys.

Forget the rumors of a juiced ball, scoring in April was hard to come by, with leaguewide averages of runs, home runs and batting average all down significantly from a year ago. A slow start to the season by several sluggers, including Manny Ramirez, Ryan Howard and Carlos Delgado, plus unusually miserable weather in the East Coast were all contributing factors to the dearth in offense.

Each week, the New York Yankees keep making the news, but never for the reasons they would hope. After rushing young pitching stud Phil Hughes to the majors, the Yankees’ brass looked like geniuses after the 20-year-old went six innings without allowing a hitagainst the Texas Rangers in his second career start. Alas, in the seventh inning Hughes sustained a hamstring injury and will miss at least a month.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

Dodgers at Braves (Today-Sunday): Led by the resurgent Tim Hudson, the Braves have once again bolted to the front of the pack in the National League. If the series is tight and it comes down to late-inning maneuvers the Braves could be in trouble — closer Bob Wickman is out with back tendinitis.

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