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BREAKING NEWS

Pennant races are exciting

As a fan of the Chicago White Sox, I can tell you it’s no fun knowing your team has no chance of making the playoffs or even being competitive.

Yet, that applies to a double-digit amount of Major League Baseball teams as the second half of the 2013 season gets under way.

We’re starting to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Those in the latter group soon will be shipping off their high-priced and veteran players to the ones in the former looking to strengthen themselves as the race to October heats up.

We’ve got some great pennant races brewing.

As usual, the A.L. East looks like a two-way race between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Neither is as strong as in past years, in part due to an abnormal number of injuries. Both teams have done a great job patching together a lineup and staying afloat as the injuries mount up. There’s not a weak team in this division as Baltimore, Tampa Bay and highly-disappointing Toronto could contend in any other. Baltimore has enough power to stay with Boston and New York, but the Fighting Showalters lack the pitching.

On to the A.L. Central where Miguel Cabrera once again is carrying the Detroit Tigers to the finish line in a weak division. If anybody is going to upset the Tigers, it will have to be the Cleveland Indians, who have hung close despite numerous injuries. The other three teams -the Twins, Royals and White Sox, are also-rans.

Before the season began, the A.L. West appeared to be a two-team race between the Texas Rangers (right) and the Los Angeles Angels (wrong). Instead, it is the pesky Oakland Athletics who simply won’t go away. In fact, it is Oakland that looks to be the most likely winner of this division.

On to the National League. While Atlanta has led the N.L. East from start to finish, I can’t help but think Washington and/or Philadelphia will make a second-half run and take the division. The Nationals have too much talent to play this way for 162 games.

Then there’s the Central, where three of baseball’s strongest teams preside. St. Louis has the best run differential in baseball, Pittsburgh has the best bullpen and Cincinnati has more talent than either. But the Reds lack intensity and may struggle to make the playoffs.

The N.L. West is the tightest division with 7.5 games separating first and last. West Virginia University booster Ken Kendrick’s Arizona Diamondbacks are making all the right moves and could be the biggest surprise of the year thanks to youngsters like Paul Goldschmidt (first base), Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs (pitchers). And who knows, as bad as the Dodgers stunk the first half of the season, rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig has made the biggest impact of any LA?newcomer since Fernando Valenzuela.

All we know for sure is that there still is a lot of baseball left to be played and virtually half of the teams still are in contention for playoff spots.

If your team is one of them, enjoy.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com