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Excitement right out of the break

By The Rex Factor

The All-Star break is always a chance for everyone to catch their breath. Players, coaches, front office people and fans alike all relish the few days off that are build into the schedule each year in the middle of July. There really has been no time off for anyone in professional baseball for about five months, so it was refreshing for fans of the game to see the fun in Friday's action.

There were scintillating games and finishes across the league.

Pittsburgh beat St. Louis on a Josh Bell 3-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, 5-2. The Pirates can pull ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central standings with a sweep this weekend, and would be just a half-game back if they were to split the Saturday and Sunday games.

Yasiel Puig crushed his second homer of the night in the ninth in Miami as the Dodgers won for the 26th time in 30 games by getting that 3-run bomb and beating the Marlins, 6-4.

Atlanta got two runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead and held on in the ninth to beat slumping Arizona, 4-3. The Braves have been one of the league's pleasant surprises after moving into their new stadium in Cobb County, a northern suburb. Most MLB baseball insiders did not expect the Braves to be competitive at this level until roughly 2019, but there are pieces in place for them to succeed, even now.

Boston plated twice in the ninth off of Aroldis Chapman and edged the Yankees, 5-4, at Fenway Park. That extended their lead in the AL East; the Yankees have now blown 18 saves, which leads all of baseball. That's fairly shocking considering there's a Chapman and a Dellin Betances down in that bullpen. Andrew Benintendi ended things with a walk-off walk. Though it was hardly Chapman's fault here, as two infield hits and an error led to the two Boston runs without Chapman retiring a hitter. None of the balls were hit very hard.

Tampa scored in the top of the 10th in Anaheim and edged the Angels, 2-1. Mike Trout made his return for the Halos, who were just a game under .500 with him out of the lineup at 19-20. Mike Scioscia has done a fabulous job managing this team and deserves consideration for any awards if he can keep this feeble collection of talent anywhere near the wild-card spots into September.

A parlay with Chicago and OVER, as well as a straight bet on the Cubs, were on my Friday card. I made the cardinal mistake of bragging about the play before it was official, and even worse, I did it on Twitter (@TheRexFactor3). The Cubs led 8-0 through three, and then slowly let the Orioles back into the game at Camden Yards. The disappointing O's tied the game at 8 before the Cubs scored in the top of the 9th to eek out a 9-8 triumph. Whatever, it still grades the same, though the way the Cubs decided to win it turned some of my hair gray in the process. 

All told, six games were decided in the last at-bat and five of them were in the ninth inning or later. Not a bad way to pick up after a few days off, baseball. Well done.

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