MLB: Five dark horse teams to watch in second half of season

Alright guys and gals, the All-Star Break marked the unofficial halfway point through the MLB season.

This means we are THAT much closer to football season — anyone as excited as I am?

Now is as good a time as any to check in with some teams that you may be ruling out to contend for a World Series title this year.

Although the postseason race will be decided on the field, here are the five teams I’m keeping my eye on in the second half of the season…

Colorado Rockies

(Photo credit: Instagram/@rockies)

I’m going to start with my hometown Rockies, because — as Stuart Scott once said — call these guys butter, because they are on a roll!

The Rockies are just a few games back from the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

They won 13 of their last 16 games to round out the first half of the season. They also led the majors in ERA in July, which is a win in itself since Coors Field is not a pitcher-friendly ballpark due to the thin air in Colorado.

That being said, if ace Jon Gray can get it together in the second half and lefties Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland can continue pitching the way they have been, the starting pitching staff would be in good shape.

The offense does have room for improvement as their run average is down from a year ago with basically the same group of hitters.

With the NL West up for grabs, the Rockies seem to be hitting their stride and I don’t think their path to playing in Rocktober is as hard as people think it is.

San Francisco Giants

(Photo credit: Instagram/@sfgiants)

 

Staying in the NL West, the Giants are also on my list.

Yes I’m aware they wrapped up the first half of the season just two games over .500, but bear with me. This is a list of dark horses, after all.

If the Giants find a way to shift momentum in the second half after some key injuries and a patchwork starting rotation, they could be in good shape.

Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto made just 15 combined starts in the first half, which provides some optimism for Giants fans, if they can stay healthy the rest of the way.

They are not expected to make any significant additions at the deadline, so it will be up to the in-house talent to make a run.

This team might be a long shot, but can’t be counted out just yet.

St. Louis Cardinals

(Photo credit: Instagram/@cardinals)

The Cards are hanging around the NL Central race. You can thank the stellar starting pitching rotation for that combined with a bullpen that has been holding their own.

The Cards posted a strong showing against the rest of the NL Central, which is great for them as their schedule in the second half is packed with in-division action.

However, they do have an uphill battle ahead of them as they are about eight games back from the Chicago Cubbies. Their offense could use a boost and swinging a deal for another bat could push them into a wild card spot.

That being said, St. Louis usually clings tight to homegrown talent, so a major trade is probably not in the “cards” (see what I did there?) for them.

Who knows though, maybe the Mike Matheny firing will provide a spark for this team.

Oakland Athletics

(Photo credit: @athletics)

Let’s take it to the American League…

The A’s are third in the AL West, and after a bleak 2017 season, Oakland has been a pleasant surprise in 2018.

This team has a great group of young talent and it’s looking like the A’s are on the up and up.

With seven players entering the break with at least 10 homeruns and veteran Jed Lowrie having a career year at the age of 34, (he was an all-star for the first time) the A’s offense is sitting pretty.

On the pitching side, the bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. They’re off to a hot start in the second half going 12-4 with four saves and an ERA that ranks second overall.

Need I also mention the so-called Chaptain America — aka Matt ChapmanOakland is feeling young and fun and that may just push them into a postseason hunt.

Although a title may be out of reach, playing in a wild card game would be a huge success for this club.

Seattle Mariners

(Photo credit: Instagram/@mariners)

Oh you poor Mariners fans! The cloud of the longest postseason drought in the majors continues to hang over Safeco Field.

It’s been 16 long years since clinching a spot in October. This year’s squad had a solid start to the season posting a 55-31 record but has stumbled as of late.

The Mariners have never been afraid to pull the trigger on a trade. Expect this ball club to be busy at the trade deadline. Pitching would seem to be at the top of their wish list.

Their ace James Paxton needs to get healthy. Plus, Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc need to keep pitching at a high level for this team to have a chance at playing in the postseason.

The next couple weeks will be very telling to where the Mariners are headed this season.

Happy second half of the baseball season to everyone! I hope the baseball gods look down on you and that your team gets a chance to play in October.

I know I am — go Rockies!

— Alex



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