The Latest In Sports The Olympics are over, but that doesn't mean we're out of sports to talk about. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com tells NPR's Scott Simon about what to look forward to next.
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The Latest In Sports

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The Latest In Sports

The Latest In Sports

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The U.S. Open's Monday. Serena Williams will play for one more mark in history. And baseball will soon enter the September stretch. Isn't this where certain teams who haven't won the World Series since 1908 begin to fall apart? Howard Bryant of espn.com joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Hey, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: Serena Williams is playing for what would be her seventh U.S. Open championship and 23rd Grand Slam singles title. Anybody stand in the way of history?

BRYANT: Absolutely. There are a lot of players who stand in the way. Angelique Kerber stands in the way. Garbine Muguruza stands in the way. There are a lot of good players in this tour who stand in the way of her winning the championship. However, the biggest person who stands in the way is Serena Williams. She is still the leader of the pack. However, she got a little elbow injury, a little shoulder injury, after Wimbledon.

And this quest is fantastic. This is one of the things that I love about sports, Scott, is that these quests to try to reach these milestones, these great peaks of Mount Everest in the sporting world, you have to - so many things have to work for you. They have to stay in your favor. You've got to be great, which she is. You've also got to be healthy. And right now, the big difference between Serena Williams and everybody else is her serve. That's the difference maker.

And if her shoulder isn't quite right and if she's just trading groundstrokes with the other players, she's still very, very good, she's still excellent, but that gap just shrunk a great deal. So we'll see about her health and we'll see about the pressure and everything else. And it's going to be fun to watch because right now, for my money, there's nobody better, male or female, when it comes to winning a championship than Serena.

SIMON: Let's get to baseball. It's about to enter crunch time. Tight race in the AL East between Toronto, Boston and Baltimore. Even New York is, like, five, six games behind. But any good teams in that division this year?

BRYANT: No. Any good teams? They're all OK. Nobody's great. The Blue Jays are the defending American League East champions. They're a game up on the Red Sox and two games up on Baltimore. This is going to go down to the wire. It's not my kind of race because it's more mediocre than excellence. However, once again, somebody's got to win and we all know when you put some competition on the table, great things can happen.

So I think September's going to be very, very interesting. You've got Toronto, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, maybe even Detroit, and, of course, the Texas Rangers, as well, that are all involved here. And so I think that it's going to be a fun race on that side. But on the National League side, I think it's actually going to be fun because I think the teams are a little bit better.

But the Cubs are just so far ahead of everybody else. They've got a 14-game lead over the Cardinals and the Nationals and Dodgers. They're about 10 games better than each of those. It's a funny place to be when you are the Cubs. And we've talked about this all the time, Scott, about those championship teams. We saw it with the Golden State Warriors.

SIMON: I - that's what I - that's what I have been telling my family. I say, I've got one word for you, and this is the sign of a real Cub fan, Golden State Warriors. I know that's three words. But...

BRYANT: (Laughter) But yes, absolutely, because what you're going to end up doing is when you have that target on you, when you're supposed to win, it doesn't always happen. You know, the 1998 Yankees, they were the greatest baseball team that I saw, wire to wire, and they finished. The Golden State Warriors won 73 games. They didn't finish. The New England Patriots went 16 and 0 and then 18 and 0 and then got to the Super Bowl and lost to the Giants.

So on the one hand, this is exactly what you want as a Cubs fan, get rid of the curse, get rid of the Billy Goat, get rid of all of that and win yourself a championship. But on the other hand, there's a lot of pressure that comes with having to win every game and having to be expected to win every game, especially when you haven't won in so long.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks very much. Boy, you've got me worried now.

BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott. You're still the best team. Go get it.

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