It looks awkward because abbreviating the word versus in the body of an article is a deviation from ordinary A.P. Style. For writing purposes, the Proofreader typically adheres to New York Times style and, therefore, doesn't own an A.P. Stylebook. So, the Proofreader consulted journalist Carly Baldwin, a writer for Metro New York newspaper, for enlightening on A.P. Style.
In an e-mail message, Baldwin wrote the Proofreader and noted what an odd favor he was asking of her. Then, she quoted the following directly from her 2003 A.P. Stylebook:
Versus should be spelled out in ordinary style and writing. "The proposal to revamp Medicare, versus cuts to Medicare ...."Given that the abbreviation appeared in a 29-word quote, it's probably safe to say that the word should've been spelled out, a minor mistake to be sure, but a mistake nonetheless.
In short expressions, however, vs. is permitted: "The issue of guns vs. butter has long been with us."
For court cases, use v. "Marbury v. Madison."
The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistake and Carly Baldwin.