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Baseball: Second Half Surges

The first half of the 2010 baseball season is in the books. There were surprising winners, such as the Reds and Padres, a lack of hitting league-wide, and some surprising flops with the Brewers, Mariners and D-Backs. With the surprises out of the way, here”s a look at some teams that might be active at the trading deadline and primed to make a second half surge.

Mariners: You can make the argument that pitching is the key to a sustained second half run. If so, the Mariners could be a fun team to watch. Who wouldn”t want a rotation anchored by Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister? Plus, former ace Erik Bedard is on the rehab trail. Lee and Hernandez won back to back games at Yankee stadium two weeks ago. The offense, however, has been feeble, with little power. They would be better off playing National League-style ball, being aggressive on the base paths with Icihro Suzuki and newcomer Chone Figgins atop the order, helping the Mariners to be one of the top teams in steals. Would you deal an arm for a big bat?

Tigers: Detroit was a disappointment in the first half, with team ERA and runs scored both ranking in the middle of the pack in the AL. However, there is plenty to like about this team. Rookie centerfielder Austin Jackson has been better than advertised, a terrific bat atop the order and a dynamite defensive player. You can see now why they weren”t that reluctant to deal Curtis Granderson over the winter. There is plenty of pop on offense with Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and newcomer Johnny Damon. Plus the starting staff has an ace in Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman seems to have regained some of his old form, and Armando Gallaraga dazzled the world with the (not quite) perfect game last month. 32-year old Jose Valverde came over from the Astros and has been great as a closer, too.

Giants: The Giants were the early season pick to roll in the NL West, then got surprised by the Padres and surging Dodgers while battling injuries and a below average offense. There are four reasons to believe the Giants won”t go away, though: Lincecum, Zito, Cain and Sanchez. San Francisco has the top foursome in the NL which keeps away losing skids. Getting a healthy shortstop Edgar Renteria back (hitting .326 before he got hurt) has helped the offense. While most teams will be shopping for pitching before the trade deadline, the Giants will be looking for bats and have arms to deal.

Red Sox: Boston spent much of the first half of the season trying to get out of fourth place in the AL East because of injuries to a pair of outfielders (Cameron, Ellsbury), 2B Dustin Pedroia and a starting staff that was a big disappointment. However, they began to turn it around at the end of May as the offense played better than expected and the starting staff gelled behind young aces Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. 30-year old Josh Beckett was shut down in May with back spasms but could return soon to help a second half stretch run. This is a deep pitching staff no one would want to face in October — if they can get there.

Rockies: Speaking of aces, Colorado has the amazing 26-year old arm of Ubaldo Jimenez anchoring the rotation, the ultimate stopper. Jimenez has already been named the National League Pitcher of the Month twice. This is a fascinating starting staff with 22-year old Jhoulys Chacin and 29-year old Jeff Francis. Francis (17-9) was the ace of their 2007 World Series team and didn”t start his first game this season until mid-May. Did you notice Colorado is ranked in the Top 7 in both offense and pitching? They have good balance with pitching, speed and defense and could be in the market for a bat or arm before the trade deadline. This could be a wild NL West race to the finish.

Mets: Management could blow this team up, but being in a high priced market they are more likely to add pieces by the end of July. The offense should be better with David Wright, Jose Reyes and newcomer Jason Bay. Bay is suffering from something that is happening league wide: a drop in power. Pitching-wise the Mets are top-heavy, with a pair of quality arms in Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana. They have struggled badly after that, with the injury to John Maine and erratic Oliver Perez. They”ve gotten a lot already out of 35-year old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, but how long will that last? Have to believe they will be shopping for a starter.

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