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Senior Baseball Columnist

Second-half viewing guide: Big Bang Theory in Bronx, Cupcake Wars out west and more

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The Yanks have won behind the long ball, but will the power last? (US Presswire)  
The Yanks have won behind the long ball, but will the power last? (US Presswire)  

Sweltering days, Dairy Queen nights ... and, ah, those Midsummer Replacement shows. Grab some couch, put fresh batteries in the remote and check out this second-half viewing guide. ...

The Big Bang Theory: A merry band of millionaires working in a bandbox laboratory in the Bronx experiment to see how many home runs it will take to win a World Series. As we join them midsummer, the results have been spectacular: Club A-Rod has opened a nine-game AL East lead, and of the 437 runs they've scored so far this season, 228 -- a full 52.1 percent -- have come via the homer. The Bronx Bombers have crushed a major-league high 144 homers, their highest total through 89 games in franchise history. The show is in danger of being canceled early, though: The Yanks are 53-20 when homering this season, and only 2-14 when they don't. In October, facing top-shelf pitching and chilly nights, that's a dangerous road to travel if you're thinking World Series title.

Project Runway: Come follow along as the Pirates, Nationals and Orioles work toward designing a winner after years of sweat-shop laboring. Who's a keeper? Sorry, Baltimore. The Nationals rotation owns a major-league best 3.21 ERA and currently is the only one in the majors employing three starters with sub-3.00 ERAs: Jordan Zimmerman (2.48), Stephen Strasburg (2.66) and Gio Gonzalez (2.93). The Pirates have statistically the second-best bullpen in the majors (2.74 ERA). Pitching will keep each of these two clubs in contention deep into the season ... but with Jason Hammel (knee) out for a month, it will be the Orioles' downfall.

The Bachelorette: Is Kate Upton upgrading from smelly ol' football players (hello, Mark Sanchez) into the higher society of baseball? Did the Tigers' Justin Verlander get pummeled at the All-Star Game because his mind was on his partner from the MLB 2K12 video game shoot? Meow!

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My Cat From Hell: Tigers fans bitch and moan about which of their heroes has been most disappointing so far in 2012 (it's a long list). The Tabbies still trail the White Sox in the AL Central? Yikes. These disgruntled fans cover much ground, especially the rotation behind Verlander. He's 10-5 with a 2.43 ERA, the rest of the starters have combined to go 37-38 with a 3.98. Doug Fister leads the cast of disappointments ... but still has time to redeem himself.

Breaking Bad: Joey Votto (Reds, knee), Jose Bautista (Blue Jays, wrist) and David Ortiz (Red Sox, Achilles) all are knocked out of the lineup within hours of each other. The Pirates, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles and Rays send their best men in to take advantage.

Person of Interest: Drama and intrigue promise to last deep into the summer as Reds manager Dusty Baker works to keep his job in Cincinnati. The show opens with our hero on the high wire without a net: Baker is not signed beyond this season, and he's working for a general manager (Walt Jocketty) who inherited him rather than hand-picked him. It's pretty clear that Baker must win to stay. The Reds own a Bronson Arroyo-slim one-game lead over the Pirates and now face a month without Votto. Key from here? Starting pitching. The Reds have used only five starters through 89 games -- Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake -- their longest streak to start a season since 1898. Neither Skyline Chili nor Pete Rose was even around back then.

Two and a Half Men: Tune in as the Dodgers play catch-the-Giants with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and underrated Half-Pint Mark Ellis back in the lineup together for the first time since mid-May. Ellis becomes the Half Pint replacement for Quarter Pint shortstop Dee Gordon, out six weeks with a thumb injury. Lots of potential here with the Hollywood-handsome Kemp if he kicks his game back up to MVP-caliber. Hijinks sure to ensue when the Melk-Man -- San Francisco's Melky Cabrera -- comes a-calling.

Pawn Stars: The Cubs, Padres and others try to turn rusty, dusty, musty old treasures into gold! How much can the Cubs get for Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza? Will the Padres be able to keep Carlos Quentin in one piece long enough to pawn him off on an unsuspecting contender? Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers, who knows his way around the trade deadline as well as anyone, is listening on Justin Upton. Watch it while you can, because this show won't be much after July 31.

Dance Moms: Pilot episode includes the Moms intently evaluating as Reds closer Aroldis Chapman does somersaults off the mound. Then they travel to Toronto to marvel as Blue Jays fans shake it to that timeless classic, Let's Go, Blue Jays .

Charlie's Angels: As Charlie Manuel investigates whether it possibly could be an inside job, his fallen-Angel Phillies betray him by falling hopelessly behind in the NL East. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can no longer answer the bell once the seductive theme song ends. Aging diva Jimmy Rollins frets about moving from October glory into last place, a fate worse than going from the Farrah Fawcett era to the Shelley Hack crash-and-burn. As things stand, Cole Hamels (11-4) has earned the win in 28 percent of the Phillies (40-51) games, highest percentage of any pitcher in the majors, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Leading to the question: If the Phils deal Hamels at the trade deadline, how will they win any games with remaining stiffs Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay anchoring the rotation? Oh, Charlie!

Jersey Shore: Jersey-native Mike Trout of the Angels shows Bryce Harper of the Nationals ("Great kid," Trout says) around the milkshake shacks and burger dens of the major leagues in this believe-it-or-not yarn featuring two kids still months away from being legally allowed to enter the neighborhood tavern. Cliff-hanger ending: Can Trout win the AL MVP award? Can Harper help bring a postseason game to Washington, D.C., for the first time since 1933? With bonus footage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt discussing what postseason baseball in D.C. is like.

Dogs in the City: In this hurriedly slapped-together sequel to Showtime's The Franchise, television cameras again follow the Marlins on the road as they woof and howl and topple garbage cans in a frantic search for their next win while Ozzie Guillen barks incessantly at Bryce Harper and Heath Bell.

How'd That Get on My Plate? In this updated version of Freaks & Geeks, erstwhile Giants ace Tim Lincecum (3-10, 5.93 ERA) consults nutritionists to determine whether the strict diet that led him to lose 30 pounds last winter is the cause of his demise after years of dominating hitters while loading up with burgers, fries and milkshakes. Most telling episode is the one expected to examine the last months of the 2010 season, when Lincecum bounced back from a miserable August funk that year (0-5, 7.82 ERA in five starts) to triumphantly pitch the Giants to their only World Series title since moving to San Francisco. And some people thought he was done then.

The Mentalist: Bobby Valentine's weekly, meandering, hour-long ramblings on Kevin Youkilis.

Cupcake Wars: High, sugary drama as the Astros (34-56), Rockies (35-54), Padres (36-55) and Mariners (38-53) compete to see who can "earn" the first overall pick in next June's draft and produce the most scrumptious Red Velvet cupcake.

Hell's Kitchen: Albert Pujols. Josh Hamilton. Mark Trumbo. Adrian Beltre. Mike Trout. Nelson Cruz. As the Rangers and Angels stage an old-fashioned shoot-'em-up out West, rival pitchers step into their kitchens and attempt to withstand the heat. Most of the pitchers learn quickly that it's safer to drink a gallon of this Hot Sauce From Hell, Devil's Revenge than it is to face the Rangers. Especially in Texas. Don't pay any mind to the Rangers' current streak of 10 consecutive games in which they've scored four or fewer runs, their longest such run since, gulp, 1999. Here's how dangerous baseball's best overall team remains: Even given that streak, the Rangers own the second-best record in the majors, trailing only the Yankees.

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