The dust has settled on the All-Star festivities. We have had the Home Run Derby, the actual All-Star game, all the tributes, and players were able to catch a breather during the long season.
In reality, it is probably better to not make the All-Star team because you get almost a week off. When you have played approximately 95 games in about 115 days, that rest is well needed.
It is over now, tonight it is time to get back to baseball. The “unofficial” second half of the season starts with teams trying to gain on division leaders and division leaders trying to keep those second place teams where they are at — in second place.
An interleague matchup between two teams trying to gain on division leaders, as the Reds are only a game and a half out of first place. They have been able to move up in the division by beating teams in their division. They took 2 of 3 from the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers, 4 of 5 from the lowly Chicago Cubs and went into the break taking 2 of 3 from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
You could make an argument that they have one of the best teams on paper, with ace Johnny Cueto, surprising starter Alfredo Simon (12-3 2.70 ERA), and dominant closer Aroldis Chapman (21 saves) — who has 60 strikeouts in just 29 2/3 innings of work.
They will be without second baseman Brandon Phillips for six weeks because of a torn ligament in his thumb and Joey Votto will miss a couple of weeks because of a strained quad.
The Yankees lost 4 of 6 going into the break, but they are not out of it by any stretch. Only 5 games back, but they were dealt a big blow losing their rookie ace Masahiro Tanaka (torn UCL). No timetable on his return but it will be at least a couple weeks.
Fellow rookie Yangervis Solarte will look to bounce back from a tough couple of months after starting off so hot.
Milwaukee Brewers (53-43) vs Washington Nationals (51-42)
The Brewers lost 7 in a row last week, and they lost their season long Central lead for a day — yes, they regained it for now with a 11-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals but they want to have a hot start of the second half like they started the first half, when they opened 20-9.
Shortstop Jean Segura will be returning to the team after mising the past two games while dealing with the death of his nine-month old son.
The Nationals are finally healthy. That’s scary to the rest of the NL East. As long as third baseman Anthony Rendon doesn’t have to watch the games — he called baseball games “too slow and boring”, they should be fine.
The Tigers are in cruise control again. They only have the third best record in the American League but a better record than anyone in the National League. That just shows you how good those guys in the AL West have been.
Los Angeles Dodgers (54-43) vs St. Louis Cardinals (52-44)
Two teams who will be in a dogfight for the rest of the season. The Dodgers in a two-team race with the San Francisco Giants and the Cards in a crowded four-team race in the Central.
The Cardinals have the tough task of facing Dan Haren and aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. They lost their last game to the Brewers but still have won 8 of 12.
Baltimore Orioles (52-42) vs Oakland Athletics (59-36)
The Orioles are only 10 games over .500 but somehow still hold a four-game lead in the very mediocre AL East. They are hoping Chris Davis can catch fire during the second half to go along with All-Stars Adam Jones aand Nelson Cruz.
The A’s are clearly the best team in the league. Unfortunately the Los Angeles Angels don’t care, and the A’s must keep winning to keep them at second place. Will not be easy.
Seattle Mariners (51-44) vs Los Angeles Angels (57-37)
The reason the A’s have the best record in the majors and they cannot relax — the Angels. They finally have their big three (Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols) together and the results are showing. They have all been great this year, but pitcher Garrett Richards (11-2. 2.55 ERA) has been their best pitcher all season.
The Mariners are hanging around, especially for the wild card spot, and they have their two aces lined up for the first two games of this series — Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez.
– Khristian Peel