After last year's Congressional baseball game, the Republican team developed a new strategy: "The main thing we're trying to avoid is injury," explained Tim Johnson, press secretary and self-described sports information director for Republican skipper Michael G. Oxley (Ohio).

Last year's 5-3 Republican victory was marred by a shoulder injury to scrappy GOP leadoff hitter and second baseman Kevin Brady (Tex.). But Brady has recovered and is expected to start tonight's 43rd annual game, scheduled for 7:05 at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie.

Third baseman Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr. (R-Miss.) earned the cleanup role after blasting a home run off ex-teammate Steve Largent during batting practice yesterday morning in Alexandria, Johnson reported. Former track star Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) lurks as a potential pinch runner for the Republicans, who have won seven of the last eight games in the series.

The other side of the aisle, er, diamond will be called to order by longtime manager Martin O. Sabo (D-Minn.), an avid Minnesota Twins fan whose two daughters and six grandchildren arrived in town yesterday and will be in the stands.

Hall of Famer Lou Brock will throw out the first pitch for the game, which benefits local charities including the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Tickets cost $8; for more information, call 301-464-4865.

-- Dan Steinberg