With drug scandal hovering, setting up to be an exciting 2nd half in major leagues

  • Article by: HOWIE RUMBERG , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 18, 2013 - 5:32 PM
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Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig

Much of the focus as baseball heads into the second half is on the possible suspensions of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and a handful of All-Stars implicated in the Biogenesis performance enhancing drug scandal.

Puigmania, a Pirates revival and one impressive power show in Baltimore may shift the gaze back onto the field, where there will be a lot to watch headed down the stretch of the regular season.

Fans who have been celebrating Mariano Rivera at every stop of his farewell tour should get a chance to watch returning stars Derek Jeter, Chris Carpenter, A-Rod and even Manny Ramirez after a first half dominated by 20-somethings.

The American League won the All-Star game on Tuesday night, giving home-field advantage in the World Series back to the junior circuit after three years of NL dominance. Now the race is on to get to the Fall Classic, and some underachieving preseason favorites are looking to make their moves.

Every playoff spot is legitimately up for grabs, with no team leading a division by more than a half-dozen games. And the NL East, where Atlanta is up six on Washington, is the only place where the division leader is ahead by three games or more.

What to look for in the second half, that begins Friday:

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CLOCK IS TICKING

— The Washington Nationals need a healthy Bryce Harper to get into a groove and help them chase down Atlanta.

— The big-spending Dodgers are suddenly surging, 17-5 since June 22, thanks to the youthful exuberance of Yasiel Puig, with a smile to match that of owner Magic Johnson.

— North of the border, the Blue Jays made the biggest offseason moves but NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey's knuckleball has been mostly off-target and Toronto finds itself in last place in the powerful AL East. But don't count anyone out in what's widely considered the toughest division in the majors.

— Pedro Alvarez and the Pittsburgh Pirates appear poised to put 20 years of misery behind them, after two years of teasing their fans by being in the hunt heading into the break only to fade down the stretch. With the Houston Astros now in the AL, the NL Central is one of the most competitive divisions.

Reds manager Dusty Baker knew it would be a stiffer challenge this year.

"I figured it'd be close, closer, because none of us have the Astros in our division that we were counting on — not to malign them — but they were in our division last year and every team kind of counted on beating them," he said. "Now you've got to beat each other."

— So far it's only been California dreamin' for Josh Hamilton in his first year in Los Angeles, even with Houston in the division. He'll have to improve on his .224 average, .413 slugging percentage for the Angels to have a shot to overtake Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes and the pesky A's. Albert Pujols' ballclub is 11 games back in the AL West and nine games behind for the wild card.

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HOMER CRUSH

Baltimore's big bopper Chris Davis is off on a race of his own. With 37 homers before the break — tying Reggie Jackson (1969) for best ever in the AL — talk of the single-season home run record is bubbling again.

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Arizona 2
Boston 4 1st Qtr 9:27
Cleveland 5
LA Lakers 7 1st Qtr 9:51
Charlotte 0
Sacramento 3 1st Qtr 11:17
New York 0
Houston 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Utah 7:00 PM
Memphis
Washington 7:00 PM
Chicago
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Denver
Nashville 0 1st Prd 16:03
New Jersey 2
Calgary 0 1st Prd 15:52
Philadelphia 0
Washington 1 1st Prd 16:23
Columbus 0
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Toronto 6:30 PM
Florida
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Minnesota
NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 8:30 PM
Edmonton
San Jose 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ole Miss 4 1st Half 15:04
Alabama 12
Eastern Mich 7 1st Half 15:54
Ball State 9
Kent State 9 1st Half 16:30
Bowling Green 8
Ohio 10 1st Half 14:03
Buffalo 8
Georgetown 7 1st Half 14:24
Butler 5
Toledo 17 1st Half 12:43
Central Mich 9
Rhode Island 9 1st Half 15:42
Dayton 6
Youngstown St 6 1st Half 15:45
Detroit 4
North Carolina 12 1st Half 13:16
Georgia Tech 5
Loyola-Maryland 4 1st Half 16:42
Holy Cross 9
Iowa 4 1st Half 17:05
Indiana 7
Akron 5 1st Half 15:51
Miami-Ohio 7
Army 4 1st Half 17:08
Navy 7
Maryland 11 1st Half 13:43
Rutgers 8
Kennesaw St 3 1st Half 18:00
USC Upstate 5
Jacksonville 7 1st Half 15:46
Fla Gulf Coast 7
Lipscomb 5 1st Half 17:29
Northern Ky 5
Stetson 6:30 PM
North Florida
Wright State 7:00 PM
Ill-Chicago
Western Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
North Dakota
Houston Baptist 7:00 PM
Abilene Christian
NC State 8:00 PM
Clemson
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Florida
Kentucky 8:00 PM
Georgia
West Virginia 8:00 PM
Kansas
Auburn 8:00 PM
Missouri
Michigan 8:00 PM
Northwestern
Villanova 8:15 PM
Creighton
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 27 2nd Half
UNC-Asheville 36
NJIT 6 1st Half 15:50
UMass Lowell 2
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Kansas State
TCU 7:00 PM
Texas
Fresno State 8:00 PM
Air Force
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Boise State
Nevada 8:00 PM
Colorado State
UNLV 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
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