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5 Things: The Defending Champs Get Up Off The Mat And Madison Bumgarner Homers Again

By Sam McPherson

The Major League Baseball playoff races promise to be quite fun this September, as the defending champions from Kansas City are back in the hunt. Here's what happened last week, in case you missed some action while watching the Olympic Games in Rio.

Two-time All-Star Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes puts on a show at AT&T Park

As a member of the Oakland Athletics back in 2013 and 2014, Cespedes won the Derby with his prodigious power. In case Bay Area baseball fans had forgotten his fence-clearing swing, Cespedes gave them all a reminder as his New York Mets came to AT&T Park in San Francisco and left with two wins thanks to La Potencia's big bat.

On Sunday Night Baseball, Cespedes provided the only runs of the game in a 2-0 victory for New York, after he hit two HRs on Saturday in a 9-5 win for the Mets. This earned Cespedes and his teammates a road split of the four-game series against the San Francisco Giants, who have now lost 23 of 34 games since the All-Star break.

The Royals get on a roll and now lurk just 3.5 games out of the last AL wild-card spot

The obituaries had been written for the 2016 Kansas City Royals on the morning of August 6. With a 51-58 record, the defending World Series champions looked finished. Not so fast... The Royals are now 64-60 after going on the kind of hot streak that first brought them to national prominence in 2014. That season, of course, Kansas City was 49-50 before catching fire, finishing the season on a 40-23 tear and making it all the way to Game Seven of the World Series before coming up just short against the Giants. Can the Royals do it again? They can if they keep pitching well: In seven wins last week, Kansas City gave up just nine runs total.

Tyler Naquin hits a walk-off, inside-the-park home run

Cleveland was down a run to Toronto at home on Friday night and with one out in the ninth inning, Jose Ramirez hit a game-tying HR to give the home team new life. Cleveland rookie sensation Naquin - hitting .311 this year with a .960 OPS in 82 games so far—stepped to the plate next, and on an 0-2 count, he drove a ball to deep right center.

We have no idea what Toronto center fielder Melvin Upton, Jr. was doing on this play, because he didn't back up right fielder Michael Saunders on the carom off the wall and then he hesitated while sitting down on the grass with the ball, his back turned to the infield as Naquin streaked around the bases for the walk-off HR - and a huge victory for the hometown Tribe.

MadBum goes deep again, this time off Jacob deGrom

San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner gave up six hits and four runs in just five innings against the Mets on Thursday night at AT&T Park, but he got the win anyway for his struggling teammates. MadBum also connected for a two-run HR in the 10-7 victory, his third of the year and the 12th HR he's hit since 2014. Through 2013, Bumgarner hit just one HR per 132.5 plate appearances. Since the start of 2014, though, the Giants lefty has hit a HR every 19.6 plate appearances. That's Ruthian - or a Bondsian, as it were, since Bumgarner plays for the same Giants organization that Bonds did when he broke the famous HR records. The last three years really have been mythical for MadBum, between his sudden HR-hitting prowess and his 2014 playoff performance that still resonates with bewilderment.

Revere's HR-robbing catch helps Nats hang on to beat Braves

Washington Nationals outfielder Ben Revere once led the National League in hits, but he's always been more well known for his base-stealing abilities. He averaged 35 stolen bases a year from 2011-2015. But Revere also has the ability to play all three OF positions well with his glove, as he demonstrated on Friday night in Atlanta.

The play helped preserve a 7-6 win for Washington as the Nationals went on to three of four against the last-place Braves on the road. After a sluggish July where they won just 13 of 25 games, the Nats are gaining steam again this month with a 12-6 record in August. If any team in the NL is going to challenge the Chicago Cubs, it's probably the Washington boys.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he's quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.

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