Puig & Pirates, Homer & Harper, plus minor leaguers Manny & A-Rod spice up MLB's first half

  • Article by: BEN WALKER , AP Baseball Writer
  • Updated: July 14, 2013 - 12:30 AM

NEW YORK — Just for fun, let's turn back the baseball clock a few months.

A well-rested Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals are destined to face Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series. The Houston Astros have the best record in baseball. Manny Ramirez is playing in Taiwan. And no one is quite sure how to pronounce the name of this Puig guy.

Well, a few things are still the same: Homer Bailey is pitching no-hitters, Miguel Cabrera swings the most devastating bat in the majors and, well, the drug cloud isn't going away anytime soon.

As the All-Star game approaches next week at Citi Field, a look at the first half of the season:

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EXTRA! EXTRA!

By the time Matt Harvey and the New York Mets let the hovering seagulls take over AT&T Park well past midnight, they were wiped out. This week's win at San Francisco took 16 innings — the Mets already had lost a 20-inning game and a pair of 15-inning contests.

"I've never heard of anything like this. It's unbelievable," manager Terry Collins said. "At least we're used to it."

All over, fans are getting way more than their money's worth. Going into this weekend, 19 games had lasted at least 14 innings; there were a total of 20 last year, according to STATS.

"Is a lunar eclipse coming?" Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick wondered. "I have no idea. Probably more of a coincidence than anything. That's how the game goes sometimes."

___

WACKY WEATHER

Even in ski country, this was a bit extreme: When the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies started up at Coors Field in late April, it was 23 degrees. That made it the coldest game-time temperature in STATS' records, dating back more than two decades.

Braves pitcher Mike Minor threw six innings and won — in short sleeves, no less. He figured long sleeves wouldn't help much. He also got a trainer to rub his arms, back and thighs with a heating ointment.

"I was burning up there," he said, smiling.

Snow at Target Field, hail at Yankee Stadium and buckets of rain from coast to coast. More than 30 games postponed so far, going in the weekend. Last year? Just 21, the whole season.

The crummy conditions have wreaked havoc with the schedule. With interleague games most every day, there's not a lot of wiggle room for makeups. So there's been a push to get the games in — Tampa Bay waited out almost five hours of rain delays in Cleveland to win a game that started on a Friday night in May and finished on an early Saturday in June. The Mets, meanwhile, played in three different time zones in three days.

In St. Louis, there was a 4½-hour rain delay in the ninth inning before Kansas City outlasted the Cardinals. The game ended at 3:14 a.m. at Busch Stadium, and created travel trouble for the umpires, too — they worked at Wrigley Field in Chicago the next afternoon.

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