Well, gang, we made it. Yet another All-Star break. Where does the time go? A big theme for the first half of the season in Major League Baseball has been large divisional leads. The NL Central remains close with its two "top" teams struggling mightily going into the break. The fourth-place Pirates are just 2 1/2 games out. The entire division is only 4 1/2 games apart. Astounding.
In the other five divisions it is an entirely different story. No other second-place team is closer to the division leader than 5 1/2 games. The wild card races are fun and all, but it's gonna be incredibly disappointing if we get five runaway divisions. Is there a chance some will tighten?
In the NL West, no. It's over. The Dodgers look certain to win their seventh consecutive division title.
In the AL Central, the race already has tightened. The Indians are on a heater at present and have trimmed what was once an 11 1/2 game deficit -- it was 11 as late as June 15 -- to just 5 1/2 games. Also, the Indians host the Twins in a three-game series right out of the break to try and carve into the lead before they get four against the lowly Tigers and three against the also-lowly Royals. There's a real shot this is a dead heat before the end of July when it was a bloodbath just three weeks ago.
Over in the NL East, what a remarkable turn-around by the Nationals. Once down 10 games, they have won 28 of their last 39 games. The Braves have been pretty hot in the meantime, but the Nationals still have it down to six. That's workable, especially with head-to-heads and there's a four-game series between the two teams in Atlanta July 18-22. The Phillies at 6 1/2 back can't be counted out, either and, again, note all the head-to-head action remaining between the three top NL East teams. The Nats open the second half in Philly.
How about the AL East? Two Rays wins to close the first half over the Yankees make that one 6 1/2, too. I don't think the Rays can catch the Yankees and the Red Sox are down nine games, but I also can't think we can call this one the way I did the NL West. There's a chance it tightens up again.
In the AL West, the Rangers have fallen to nine back after creeping up on the Astros for a quick second. The A's, though, have won 17 of their last 24. At their worst, they were 12 games out. They have it to 7 1/2, which is also workable with head-to-heads, though the Astros are only going to get better as they continue to get key position players off the IL (Carlos Correa is back soon). I'm inclined to believe the Astros run away with it again.
My two best picks to give us at least a second good division race are the Indians and Nationals right now. If forced to pick a third division I guess I'd go AL East, but I'm not really worried for the Yankees or anything.
Who would've thought this even a few weeks ago? Resurrections in Cleveland and DC!
Baseball, man. It's a beautifully weird marathon.
|The Yankees close the first half by losing two straight games. They only lost two games in their previous 18.||--||0-0|
|Losing three straight at home to close the first half isn't ideal, but it also doesn't matter. They're fine.||--||0-0|
|The Astros' franchise has seen strikeout machines like J.R. Richard, Mike Scott, Justin Verlander and Nolan Ryan. The highest single-season strikeout percentage, should this continue, would be Gerrit Cole's 2019 rate, at 36.7 percent.||1||0-0|
|Yeah, they've slightly stumbled, but who thought they'd have 56 wins at the break? Nope. You didn't.||1||0-0|
|From June 4-6, the Braves lost two of three against the Pirates. They haven't lost a series since.||--||0-0|
|Salvaging the last two games of the series against the Yankees was a nice way to end a very good first half. Is settling for a wild card spot good enough, though? They had a 5 1/2 game lead at one point.||--||0-0|
|Prior to this season, catcher Roberto Perez had 21 homers in 963 plate appearances. This season he's got 16 in 237.||4||0-0|
|The A's get the White Sox and Mariners at home to open the second half before a really tough spot in the schedule (at Twins; at Astros; vs. Rangers; vs. Brewers; vs. Cardinals; at Cubs).||--||0-0|
|That's a 5-1 week to close down the first half and now rest a few days before gearing up for a second half run. Do they have a run in them?||4||0-0|
|Joey Gallo threw out Byron Buxton on the bases Sunday. The man is an all-around star. What a story.||3||0-0|
|The Nats are the first team in MLB history to have three pitchers with at least 125 strikeouts at the All-Star break. You can probably guess who, but I'll spell it out: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.||3||0-0|
|Five years ago and through much of Cubs history, leading the division -- even by a half-game -- at the break would be cause for celebration. Instead, it's been mostly a dreadful first half with negative reactions.||2||0-0|
|The Cubs are trying to hand the Brewers first place and they just won't take it.||4||0-0|
|The only two series wins they've had in the last month came against the Mets.||1||0-0|
|Nice rebound in sweeping the Rockies after two straight GUT PUNCH walk-off losses.||2||0-0|
|Enjoy the All-Star break, Mr. Tatis. It's the last one with days off you're going to have for years.||--||0-0|
|Last week I mentioned the Pirates had a great opportunity with their next 10 games coming against the Cubs and Brewers. They are 5-2 so far.||4||0-0|
|They definitely need the break. Will anything change afterward?||--||0-0|
|Can't really focus on baseball regarding this team this week. Our thoughts are with you, Angels.||--||0-0|
|The Rockies close to the first half with six straight losses and that puts them a game under .500.||8||0-0|
|Yasiel Puig is primed to set career highs in both home runs (28 is his high and he has 20) and stolen bases (15 is his high and he has 13).||1||0-0|
|This has to be considered a very good first half as the White Sox are starting to turn the corner in their rebuild.||--||0-0|
|The Giants have won six of their last seven! Too bad it's 2019 so I can't make an "even year" joke.||2||0-0|
|Pete Alonso only needs 12 second-half homers to break the single-season franchise record.||1||0-0|
|No Daniel Vogelbach in the Home Run Derby is dumb.||1||0-0|
|Since their low-water mark of 10-31, the Marlins are only one game under .500. No, that doesn't make them good, but it's definitely not terrible. Of course, they've now lost six of their last seven.||--||0-0|
|Since coming back up from the minors on May 24, Lourdes Gurriel is hitting .335/.382/.716(!) with 16 homers in 40 games.||--||0-0|
|The Royals have four players with at least 10 stolen bases. No one else has more than two, only seven teams have multiple guys and 10 teams don't have a single player with 10 steals.||--||0-0|
|Nicholas Castellanos is 25 for his last 67 (.373) with seven doubles, two homers and eight walks. Heating up at the perfect time to be dealt.||--||0-0|
|The Orioles are now the second team in MLB history to enter the All-Star break with a winning percentage under .310 in consecutive years, following the 1941-42 Phillies. That's some quality futility.||--||0-0|