- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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The All-Star break is the baseball season's halfway point. For the American League, it might just as well be all over. Moving at a crushing .718 pace (28-11) since Memorial Day, when they were three games behind the White Sox, the Yankees quickly erased any premature hopes of a pennant race this year. On All-Star day they were comfortably in first place—just as they had been last year and the year before that.
The White Sox' perennial June pennant dreams, heightened this year by a strong .700 run through May 30, waned when the pitching staff finally found the load too heavy to carry alone.
The Indians, bothered by too many injuries, and the Tigers, perhaps hampered by too many individual stars, not only eliminated themselves from any pennant consideration when they both played below-.500 ball the last six weeks but found themselves pressed for a spot in the first division by the hot-and-cold Red Sox and the irreverent Orioles.
Paul Richards' crew of ragamuffins, the most improved team in the league, was only 2� games removed from the cellar on Memorial Day. Since then it won 23 and lost 15 (six by one run) to climb within 3� games of third place.
In sharp contrast to the American League's annual Yankee blues, the National League is presenting a pennant race even more incredible than last year's three-team merry-go-round. On Memorial Day four teams—the Redlegs, Braves, Dodgers and Phillies—were bunched in tense contention for the lead.
The Cardinals, in fifth place, 6� games behind the league-leading Reds, seemed all set for another disappointing season. But in the six weeks since then the amazing Cards have won 28 and lost only 12. At the All-Star Game break they were 2� games ahead of everyone else, opening up the widest margin in the league since early June. It was the team's biggest lead since June 1950.
The faltering Redlegs and the injury-ridden Dodgers lost more games than they won, while the sputtering Phils and the enigmatic Braves just about broke even. For a while the sixth-place Giants threatened to move into the race, too, when they won 15 out of 19, but a five-game losing streak spoiled the fun.
One interim conclusion seems safe. Either the Cubs or the Pirates will finish last.—L.W.