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Three H’s: Health, heat and home will shape baseball’s stretch run

Article By smcneal.tsn on 12th August, 2010

Hyped for a heck of a homestretch? You should be.

Baseball's pennant races are hot. With less than a third of the season remaining, no more than 2 1/2 games separate the top two teams in every division except the AL West.

Three factors certain to help separate the heroes from the hapless:

Ryan Howard is one of several big names who have been shelved with injuries. Health
Nothing can sidetrack a team like injuries. Just ask the Red Sox. Nothing is more certain to happen than injuries, either.

Check some of the names on the disabled list: Justin Morneau (concussion), Chase Utley (thumb), Ryan Howard (ankle), Martin Prado (pinky), Rafael Furcal (back), Kevin Youkilis (thumb) and Dustin Pedroia (foot). Prado and Pedroia are expected back as soon as next week. The others, who knows?

Compared to the Phillies, the NL East-leading Braves had avoided costly injuries until Thursday when they learned Chipper Jones has a torn ACL in his left knee and faces season-ending surgery. The injury comes when the 38-year-old third baseman was hitting better than he has all season. "Worst-case scenario," admitted Jones' long-time agent, BB Abbott.

Until recently, the Rays had gotten by with five starters all season, riding them to the majors' second-best record. But they recently lost youngsters Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis to shoulder issues, just as the Red Sox are creeping closer.

Home
Nothing can boost a team like playing at home. Check the standings. Every first- and second-place team is at least seven games over .500 at home. Only the Yankees, Rays and Padres have played that well on the road.

The Padres are perhaps in the best position to take advantage of the remaining schedule. They begin a 10-game trip with a three-game showdown this weekend against the Giants, a team they have beaten in seven of eight meetings. After this journey, the Padres will leave San Dieg...

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