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Weekly MLB Report: AL Races Tighten; NL Crowns Division Champions

MLB Report 9_23
Dave Reginek, John Grieshop / Getty Images

Several teams secured post-season spots in the past week, while others can do so over the next seven days. Here’s what’s happening in Major League Baseball:

National League Report: Reds and Giants Claim Division Titles; Nationals Clinch First Playoff Spot

The National League playoff picture is nearly set. The Cincinnati Reds (92-61) wrapped up their second National League Central title in three years by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-0, on Saturday, meanwhile the San Francisco Giants (89-64) beat the San Diego Padres, 8-4, to secure their second National League West crown in three years. The National League East-leading Washington Nationals (92-60) clinched their first playoff spot since relocating from Montreal. They are 4.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves with 10 to play. The Braves (88-65) seem likely to be the first of two NL Wild Card teams. The St. Louis Cardinals (82-71) have won six of seven contests to stay 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee for the second NL Wild Card spot.

American League Report: Twins Sweep Tigers; Yankees Still Lead Orioles

The Minnesota Twins played the role of spoiler on Sunday, beating Detroit (80-72) in both games of a doubleheader, 10-4 and 2-1, to keep the Tigers from tying or passing the Chicago White Sox (81-71) in the American League Central. The White Sox have lost five in a row, including three to the Los Angeles Angels (84-69) over the weekend. The Angels are just 2.5 games behind Oakland (86-66) for the final AL Wild Card spot. The American League East-leading New York Yankees (88-64) took two of three from the A’s, but had their seven-game winning streak snapped with a 5-4 loss on Sunday. The Baltimore Orioles (87-65) could not take advantage of the Yankees’ loss, losing 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. The Orioles remain one game back of New York in the AL East, but atop the Wild Card standings. The Texas Rangers (90-62) reduced their magic number to clinch the AL West to seven with a 3-2 win over Seattle.

Play of the Week: Steve Pearce, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees were locked in an extra-innings’ duel with the Oakland A’s on Saturday afternoon. They could have fallen behind in the 11th inning were it not for this spectacular play by first baseman Steve Pearce.

Upcoming Series To Watch: Oakland A’s at Texas Rangers

After dropping consecutive series to the Tigers and Yankees, Oakland (86-66) heads to Texas (90-62) for a four-game set that could decide the American League West. Young A’s starting pitchers Dan Straily, Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker and Travis Blackley will have to figure out a way to keep the potent Rangers’ lineup in check throughout the series. Rangers’ manager Ron Washington sends Derek Holland, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison to oppose an A’s offense that has struggled at times.

Fantasy Player to Add: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

Many fantasy owners may have waived Texas Rangers’ catcher Mike Napoli after a quad injury sidelined him earlier this season. Three homers in his last six contests should illustrate that this power-hitting catcher is primed for production over the last 10 days of the season.

Fantasy Player To Drop: Geovany Soto, Texas Rangers

With Mike Napoli back in Texas, Geovany Soto figures to get fewer at-bats. He is just 5-for-29 (.172) over his last 10 games. He’ll have opportunities to pinch-hit, DH and spot start, but Soto may not be worth keeping as the 2012 season nears its end.

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