MLB's second half of the season is officially in full swing.
Thus far, 2010 is proving to be one for the books. With so many tight division races, fans will have plenty of excitement to keep them occupied.
Still, fans tend to throw in the towel and write off their team's chances of playing in October. A few teams stand out that might not be division leaders now, but still have the potential not to be counted out yet.
Remember that pennants are not won in July and that baseball can look decidedly different from week to week.
Here are two teams, one from the AL and the other from the NL, that should not be counted out.
The Angels lost their best player, 1B Kendry Morales, for the season, and it has finally impacted the team. Still, this is a group who has won the AL West six of the last seven years and it would be foolish to consider them out this soon.
Even with the first-place Rangers acquiring SP Cliff Lee, the back of their rotation is not significant.
The Angels have an ace in Jered Weaver. Weaver beat Seattle's King Felix for the third time this season, but the Angels have to give Weaver some run support. The vets need to step it up now to stay in the mix, especially Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Hideki Matsui.
Truthfully, they are not the same Angels from 2009. They lost a lot of speed on the bases, which played a enormous role in their past successes. The Halos should pick up a solid bat before the end of July. The Red Sox' Mike Lowell or the Orioles' Miguel Tejada are rumored possibilities, and while they could be the difference makers, they are a tad too old to get that excited about.
The Angels remain just four-and-a-half games out, and the next two weeks are the time to make a move on Texas. The Angels are a second-half team, with a proven history—now's time to prove it.
The Phillies have been hit with injuries even harder than the Angels. So far, 12 players have seen the DL, including three All-Star hitters, the closer, a setup man, two starters, and both their starting and backup catchers. Things have been far from sunny in Philadelphia.
After just two starts, NLCS Rookie of the Year SP J.A. Happ has yet to be back to his 2009 form—but he will be. Then SS Jimmy Rollins, who is the Phillies' leadoff batter, has been actively on and off the DL.
On June 28th, 2B Chase Utley hurt his thumb. Utley had surgery on his thumb on July 1st and will return in a few weeks. Turning to the bullpen, closer Brad Lidge is getting reacquainted after missing April and most of May, but Lidge still can throw heat. Phillies fans need to be patient with Lidge.
The Phillies are kicking themselves for letting Cliff Lee go. In 2010, Lee is throwing better than trade-off Roy Halladay, that is just a fact.
The positives are that SP Cole Hamels is looking better with each start and Happ should be of use when he is back, which should be any day now. I would also expect that Lidge will be back to being the dominating closer by mid-August again. Getting Lidge on the mound more often will help keep him strong.
Now what to do about Jayson Werth? Werth is not hitting like his usual self, but can you blame a player who knows the team did not want him? Not particularly well-executed by the Phillies management, who handed Howard a monster contract and made Werth aware that he has no worth. There's no doubt this is taking a toll on Werth, whether he knows it or not.
1B Ryan Howard is currently on a hitting tear and is confident the Phillies are getting back on their feet. Rollins will start to get hot now that he is fully recovered. Utley will be back in three weeks, along with Happ and Placido Polanco, who will rejoin the team shortly.
The Phillies are a half game behind the New York Mets and five-and-a-half behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. Remember that the last three seasons, the Phillies have had about the same record, and they have been to the World Series the last two years.
The Phillies will make a run at the division for sure and with so much baseball left, winning it is not out of left field by any means.
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