Manager Marty Brown and his Nashville Sounds continue to battle for first place in the eastern division of the Pacific Coast League. Coming off a 12-game road trip, Nashville is 61-61 for the season after winning four in a row, and currently trail league leading New Orleans by a slim 1-1/2 gamesthe closest they’ve been to first place since April 27. Bronson Arroyo leads the Sounds’ pitching staff with eight victoriesfive wins in his last six startsand has now thrown back-to-back complete games. His latest gem came in a 2-1 defeat against the Memphis Redbirds. Arroyo allowed only four hits, one walk and struck out four while moving the Sounds to .500 for the first time since July 22. ♦ Two major reasons the Sounds have been tough to beat lately are the play of outfielder Tike Redman and the addition of Pittsburgh’s Adrian Brown. Redman, sidetracked earlier this season due to a nagging wrist injury, is lighting up the Pacific Coast League. He has a season best six-game hitting streak and is 19-for-54 (.352) in his last 13 games. Adrian Brown, who arrived in Nashville on July 4, has been white-hot at the plate, hitting .412 (40-for-97) in his last 26 games and sailing along at a .381 clip since being added to the Sounds’ roster. ♦ Although the Titans went on to defeat the dreaded St. Louis Rams 28-26 before a capacity crowd at the Coliseum on Saturday, the start to their preseason contest was not auspicious. Steve McNair fumbled the football on the first play from scrimmage after being hit by Jeff Zgonina; 20 seconds later, the Rams’ Don Davis capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown. McNair’s struggles continued throughout most of the first half. His first nine passing attempts were thrown for incompletions, and he tallied just 19-yards of passing on three completions. “I never found my rhythm,” McNair said. Let’s hope he finds it soon. ♦ While the air attack slumped, the Titans ground attack rolled. Eddie George appears back in elite form, and his backups look stellar in preseason action. The ground game is reason for (offensive) optimism this year. Robert Holcombe racked up 62 yards Saturday on 16 carries and rookie John Simon tallied 78 yards on just six carriesincluding a 57-yard jaunt that rallied the offense and, more than likely, won the game. Simon, who was undrafted coming out of Louisiana Tech, has been a welcome surprise to the Titans’ backfield and is making a strong bid to earn a roster spot. Running back Skip Hicks, who did an outstanding job as Eddie George’s backup last season, looks to see a lot of action this Thursday against the Los Angles Raiders. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on ESPN. ♦ Vandy football coach Bobby Johnson has guts. He’s generated enthusiasm in Nashville through his TV ads and his no-nonsense approach to winning, academics and his players. It almost makes you optimistic about their chances. But then you look at the Commodores 2002-03 schedule and begin to worrya lot. Vandy opens at Georgia Tech on Aug. 31 and then enters a stretch from Sept. 14 through Oct. 19 that sees them face the likes of Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss and a highly skilled squad from MTSU. And it gets worse. Their last four games of the year are against Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Welcome to the SEC, Coach Johnson.