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Tight division races resume after all-star break

July 18, 2013 at 7:41 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, July 18 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball returns to the field Friday for a stretch drive that could involve close division races and a possible run at history by Miguel Cabrera.

After a four-day break that was highlighted by the American League's 3-0 win in the All-Star Game, every team in the majors will be in action Friday.

Chief among them will be Boston and New York, who will have their seventh of 19 meetings as anticipation grows for the potential return of the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

The New York third baseman has not played this season due to a hip injury, but he has said he will be ready to play next Monday when the Yankees visit Texas. New York General Manager Brian Cashman has yet to confirm that Rodriguez will be with the Yankees for that game.

At the All-Star break, Boston joined Detroit, Oakland, Atlanta, St. Louis and Arizona as a division leader. Atlanta is the only one among those, however, with a lead of more than 2 1/2 games -- owning a six-game advantage over Washington in the National League East.

Atlanta will begin the second half of the season with a weekend series at the Chicago White Sox, Arizona will be at San Francisco, St. Louis will host San Diego, Detroit will visit Kansas City and Oakland will travel to the Los Angeles Angels.

Leading individual achievements are always a subject of note at the All-Star break, but especially so this year since Cabrera is attempting to do something this season that has never been done.

The Detroit third baseman won the American League triple crown in 2012, the first player to pull off that feat in 45 years. No one has ever won a triple crown two years in a row. Roger Hornsby's two triple crown titles came three years apart in the 1920s and Ted Williams pulled off the achievement twice in a span of five years during the 1940s.

Cabrera returns to action leading all of baseball with his .365 batting average and RBI total of 95. But he is seven home runs behind Baltimore's Chris Davis, whose 37 equaled the most in American League history heading into the break.

Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals is second in the National League in both batting average and RBI, but his 10 home runs leave him out of contention for the top spot in that category.

Detroit's Max Scherzer and Tampa Bay's Matt Moore share the major league lead in victories with 13, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers has baseball's lowest earned run average at 1.98 and Baltimore's Jim Johnson is the saves leader with 33.

Among the team story lines for the rest of the season will be the play of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have not had a winning season in 21 years.

Pittsburgh was 16 games above the .500 mark on July 28 last season only to turn in a 21-41 record the rest of the way.

The Pirates have a 56-37 record as they resume play this year and trail the Cardinals by just one game in the National League Central. Since Pittsburgh's pitching staff leads all of baseball with an ERA of 3.07, it would appear the Pirates have an excellent chance to end their long streak of losing seasons.

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