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MLB Weekly Report: New York Yankees and Washington Nationals Have League-Best Records at the All-Star Break

MLB Weekly Report 7_9
Al Bello, Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is Tuesday in Kansas City. The New York Yankees and Washington Nationals have the best records in their respective leagues at the mid-season break. Here’s what’s happening this week in Major League Baseball:

 

Bryce Harper and Other Reserves Named to All-Star Teams

Washington Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper was named to the National League All-Star team on Saturday in place of Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who sustained a right knee injury that requires surgery. Harper, 19, becomes the youngest position player in All-Star history…Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn was named to replace Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond, who will sit out the game to rest a sore oblique muscle…Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy will replace Angels’ pitcher C.J. Wilson on the AL roster, as Wilson has a blister on his left middle finger…Texas Rangers’ pitcher Yu Darvish and St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese were added to their respective league’s all-star squad after winning the online election in the MLB Final Vote contest.

Home Run Derby Lineups Set

Eight sluggers will take aim at the Kauffman Stadium fences in Kansas City on Monday night in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby. Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo represent the American League, while Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran and Andrew McCutchen swing for the National League.

Play of the Week: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

There were a lot of highlights in last Tuesday’s high-scoring Brewers-Marlins game, won 13-12 by Milwaukee. None was as spectacular as this catch by Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gomez, who crashed into the wall to get the out on Logan Morrison and keep the game tied at 11.

American League Report: Yankees, White Sox and Rangers Lead AL Divisions

AL East: After a sluggish start and despite significant injuries to closer Mariano Rivera and starters Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the New York Yankees (52-33) have baseball’s best record and lead the AL East by 7.0 games over Baltimore. Even if the patchwork starting rotation stumbles, the Yankees look like a safe bet to make the playoffs.

AL Central: With a powerful, veteran lineup leading the way, the Chicago White Sox (47-38) lead the AL Central by 3.0 games over the Cleveland Indians. If Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Jose Quintana can continue to deliver quality pitching, the White Sox will be difficult to catch.

AL West: Winners of the last two American League pennants, the Texas Rangers (51-34) look to be stronger than ever, as they lead the AL West by 3.5 games over Los Angeles. If Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison can duplicate their first-half success in the second-half, the Rangers should secure a playoff spot.

First-Half MVP: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers — While he has cooled off a bit on the home run pace, Josh Hamilton still leads the AL in home runs with 27 and RBIs with 75. His .313 batting average is good for eighth in the league, and the threat of his power helps all the Texas hitters see better pitches.

First-Half Cy Young: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels — Other hurlers may have been more overpowering, but no American League pitcher was better than Jered Wever in the first half. Batters hit just .188 against Weaver, and his 10 wins place him second only to Tampa Bay’s David Price and Texas’ Matt Harrison.

National League: Nationals, Pirates and Dodgers Halfway to the Playoffs

NL East: Shedding their reputation as doormats of the NL East, the Washington Nationals (49-34) have the National League’s best record and may have its best young talent. Between rookie Bryce Harper and emerging pitching aces Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals figure to stay in contention for this season and many more to come. They lead Atlanta by 4.0 games.

NL Central: An even bigger surprise than Washington, the Pittsburgh Pirates (48-37) are a game ahead of Cincinnati in the NL Central. If the Pirates, who haven’t finished with a winning record since 1992, can add another starting pitcher and keep All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan fresh enough to finish games down the stretch, they could break that streak.

NL West: Despite losing dynamic outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier for long stretches of time, the Los Angeles Dodgers (47-40) are a half-game ahead of rival San Francisco in the NL West. If Los Angeles can add a capable middle infield bat and get their stars back in the outfield, they may have enough to win the division.

First-Half MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates — Andrew McCutchen leads the league in hitting at .362 and has delivered spectacular play in the outfield for the Pirates. His 18 home runs, 60 RBIs and 1.039 OPS are impressive as well.

First-Half Cy Young: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets — Knuckleball pitchers are supposed to frustrate batters, not dominate them; Mets’ pitcher R.A. Dickey has done both. Dickey is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins with Gio Gonzalez. His 2.40 ERA is fourth in the league, while his 123 strikeouts are second.

Upcoming Series to Watch: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees

Though they stumbled at the start of the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels (48-38) have recovered to get back into playoff contention. While they still trail Texas by 3.5 games in the AL West, the Angels hope to claim one of the two AL wild cards. They start a three-game series in New York on Friday against a Yankees team that can hit against anyone, even Angels’ aces like Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

Fantasy Player to Add: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates’ second baseman Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 12 games by going 5-for-5 on Sunday. With the rest of the Pirates lineup hitting well, Walker should continue to see better pitches and have more opportunities to drive in runs.

Fantasy Player to Drop: Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves

Though he does have 12 home runs at the All-Star break, Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla is hitting just .140 since June 1. The starting second baseman for the NL in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Uggla is a key part of the Braves’ lineup. He’ll have every opportunity to reverse his slide, but that won’t be any time soon.

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