Yankees sign Neagle in push towards play-offs

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With last week's All Star game done and dusted - the American League beat the National League 6-3 - now is the time to start thinking about the play-offs. Even though New York Yankees have had what counts for them as a poor first half of the season, it would be a foolish man who bet against them reaching their fourth World Series in five years.

With last week's All Star game done and dusted - the American League beat the National League 6-3 - now is the time to start thinking about the play-offs. Even though New York Yankees have had what counts for them as a poor first half of the season, it would be a foolish man who bet against them reaching their fourth World Series in five years.

The Yankees are only half a game ahead of Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. Knowing that World Series are won from the mound, they have bolstered their roster - and added to their $107m (£73m) wage bill in the process - with Cincinnati's highly prized left-handed pitcher Denny Neagle.

Their powers of recovery were underlined on Sunday when they entered the ninth inning against Philadelphia 6-1 down. The Yankees pulled five runs back to take the game into a 10th inning, and the recently acquired David Justice batted in Paul O'Neill for the winning run in a remarkable 9-8 victory.

When it comes to post-season, don't be shocked to see this year's surprise package, Chicago White Sox, a 500-1 chance to win the World Series at the season's start. They have won 57 games, more than any other side, and remain 9 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central. There were few White Sox players at the All-Star Game, although James Baldwin was the winning pitcher and the outfielder Magglio Ordonez batted in one of the American League's six runs. But like the old Wimbledon "crazy gang", the "no-star" White Sox thrive on adversity. Team spirit has helped win a club record 13 away games in a row and has allowed them to dream of a first World Series appearance since 1959.

In the National League, Atlanta Braves, St Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks are making the running, all with healthy leads in their divisions.

The Cardinals' hopes rest partly on the fitness of Mark McGwire as he mounts another assault on the home run records - he has 30 so far - while the Braves' figures mask the inconsistency and injuries that have blighted their pitching staff. Arizona, too, have been beset by injuries, but still look on the way to winning NL West for the second season in a row.

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