Getaway Day: Class is back in session

Starting pitcher Jose Quintana dominated against the Baltimore Orioles in his first game playing for Chicago Cubs on July 16, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

With the All-Star Game and its festivities behind us, the pennant chase is back underway. Everything changes in this part of the year, and in the brief return back to action over the weekend, we have already seen some trends emerge ahead of the trade deadline, from Jose Quintana’s dominant debut in his new cross-town address in Chicago to Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers continuing where they left off a week ago. Without a doubt, things are heating up in baseball’s busy season. 

Let’s have a look around and see where everyone checks back in after the second half’s first Getaway Day.

American League  

Baltimore Orioles: The second half has started with a dud for the O’s, who provided a springboard for the Cubs over the weekend. And while the lackluster returns continue to plague the team, as it seems like forever ago that they spent nearly the entirety of the first month of the year leading the East. Now they instead head into the new week desperately trying to stay out of the cellar of the division for long. So it should be no surprise that the club is making their excess of elite relief options available, including former All-Stars Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day.

Despite the cost, the Red Sox decided it was better to pay out Pablo Sandoval than keep him on the roster.  Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Red Sox: The highlight of the week for the Red Sox is not Chris Sale’s impressive All-Star Game start, nor was it Craig Kimbrel’s victory in it. Rather, it was shedding some excess weight from their roster in the form of Pablo Sandoval, whom the team decided to release after just two and a half years into a $ 90 million pact – and with over $ 40 million left to dish out. It ends the circle on one of the worst deals in the history of free agency.

Chicago White Sox: The year-long White Sox sale hit another high mark this week, as the Sox agreed to the rare same city deal with the Cubs to ship out their most recent ace, Jose Quintana. The Sox again grabbed the cream of the crop in prospects in return, netting the Cubs’ top two minor leaguers in Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. The forecast for the South Siders continue to get brighter and brighter, although those days still stand far off.

Cleveland Indians: Ideal times are ahead for the Tribe, who play a string of last place teams over the first ten games of the second half of the season. It is a desirable scenario for manager Terry Francona, who returns to dugout after undergoing treatment for a heart condition last week. The Tribe would be best served taking advantage of both his return and the fortuitous break in the schedule as they cling to a small lead over the hard-charging Twins.

Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez is generating trade talk across the league.  Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers: The J.D. Martinez next destination sweepstakes is the biggest piece of action around the Tigers, who continue to drift further and further away from the action in the Central. As the top rental bat on the market, Martinez has suitors from far and wide checking in on his availability. It appears imminent that he will at least be able to cash out of the frustrating season that is engulfing the once dominant club.

Houston Astros: After putting up 19 runs in their first half finale against the Blue Jays, the AL’s top guns wasted little time in getting back into the swing of things, literally, after the break. Houston put up ten runs on the Twins on Friday night, proving that even a week off can’t cool a team that is on pace to fly past 100 wins. And upcoming dates with Seattle, Baltimore and Philadelphia certainly look to help that cause.

Kansas City Royals: After their inspirational run to round out the first half, a pair of losses at the hands of the Rangers coming out of the All-Star break pushed the recent Royals struggles out to a five-game losing skid, their longest slide since April. And while it is not reason to panic (yet), they cannot afford to lose much more ground, with the tenacious Indians and Twins still  within arm’s length in the Central.

The return of Mike Trout was good news for the Angels this week.  Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels: No team received better news coming out of the break than the Halos, who got regained the services of Mike Trout after his first disabled stint of his career cost him 39 games. And he got back into the swing of things immediately, racking up three hits and a stolen base of his first two games back. Unfortunately, it was for lost cause, as Anaheim dropped two games at the hands of the Rays.

Minnesota Twins: It is proving ground time for the Twins, who open the second half with series against the Astros and Yankees. Firmly planted in both the AL Central and Wild Card race, it is time to see if the young Twins have the endurance to stay in the race they surprisingly fought their way into.

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez got the week started off with a bang in representing the Yanks at the All-Star festivities, with each putting on a show in the Home Run Derby. Sanchez became public enemy #1, as he knocked off hometown favorite Giancarlo Stanton in the opening round. But nobody could stand up to the might of Judge, who showed why he’s been the break out force in the game this year, launching 500-foot moonshots in route to claiming the championship for himself. The Yanks got back to the business of chasing down the Red Sox on Friday, but learned they would have to do so without the services of Michael Pineda, who is headed under the knife for Tommy John surgery. His eight wins are tops on the team.

Reliever Sean Doolittle is heading to the Washington Nationals.  Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland A’s: The yard sale is underway yet again in Oakland, as the A’s begin their annual July tradition of provided a stimulus packages for contenders around the game. And this year’s first beneficiaries of the Oakland selloff are the Washington Nationals, who acquired Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s stockpile of late-inning arms. For now, the wait continues to see if Sonny Gray, Yonder Alonso and Jed Lowrie will be packing their bags as well.

Seattle Mariners: Robinson Cano stole the show at Tuesday’s All-Star Game, hitting the game-winning homer for the AL in the 10th inning. These good vibes carried over to the new week, as James Paxton and Felix Hernandez picked up a pair of wins to get the second half underway. Although they are still chasing the .500 mark, a healthy Mariners club could be an interesting one to watch in the wide open AL West middle class. 

Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa’s rise up the charts has truly been something to behold. The Rays have passed both Orioles and Yankees now in the AL East standings, and have their sights set squarely on the Red Sox now, whom they won three of four from to end the first half. The Rays have become the most silent killers in the game. 

Texas Rangers: The Texas bullpen is yet again in flux, as Matt Bush moves out of the ninth inning and cedes the closer role to Alex Claudio. The move has been met with positive early returns, as Claudio closed out a pair of victories to start the second half for the Rangers, with Bush paving the way in a setup capacity ahead of him. If the Ranger pen can have any sort of stability, a Wild Card push could be ahead for Texas.

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Francisco Liriano pitches the ball during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on July 15 2017. The Jays lost 11-1.  Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays: The excuses for the disappointing Blue Jay season are running short, as even with a finally full strength rotation they continue to get beat around. Francisco Liriano’s ERA now has topped 6.00, as he authored the 11-1 loss the team suffered through at the hands of the Tigers on Saturday. It is hard to see how they avoid selling off parts over the next few weeks, as this season is a lost cause.

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks: While the Diamondbacks are spending the new week trying to regain their balance after being surprisingly taken to task by the Braves over the weekend, there could be some excitement on the horizon soon. If the rumor mill stories of Arizona’s interest in J.D. Martinez becomes a reality, one of the NL’s already most dangerous attacks could be about to go to truly terrifying levels. 

Atlanta Braves: You’ve got to respect the tenacity that this Braves team is showing. After opening the second half with an impressive sweep over the D-backs, over their last seven games, they have beaten two teams destined for the postseason  – Arizona and Washington – five times. While it is a distant shot, it is impressive to see this team, who earlier in the year built up three five game losing streaks, still relevant.

Pitcher Jose Quintana had an immediate impact for the Cubs after being trade to the club from the White Sox earlier this week. Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Cubs: Never a team to be shy about going out to make a statement on the trade waters, the move to land Jose Quintana is easily their most shocking acquisition over the past few years. It is not often that the Cubs and White Sox do business together, but the immediate payout from the swap for the Cubs was tremendous. Quintana held the Orioles to three hits over seven innings, while striking out 12 on Sunday, an inspirational performance that completed the sweep to start a second half that carries a new found hopes. What’s more is that they may not be done either, as the team is rumored to have serious interest in adding Sonny Gray as well. Despite a far from desirable start to the year, the Cubs don’t seem to be content to go quietly into the night or the trade deadline.

Cincinnati Reds: It was a rough weekend for the Reds, who were pummeled by the Nationals over the last three days. And as the series continues into the new week, the prospects for a turnaround don’t seem too promising either. The equally capable Diamondbacks will come to the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, followed by Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton over the weekend. Condolences in advance, Reds pitching staff. 

Colorado Rockies: The tough times continued for the once-mighty Rockies, as they dropped two ugly games to the Mets to open the second half. And while Sunday’s victory salvaged some of the lost ground from the weekend, they have now watched their seemingly guaranteed route towards the postseason become very much in question as the dog days of the summer set in.

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger reacts after walking in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on July 16, 2017. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers: What can’t Cody Bellinger do? After a historic pace throughout the first half and an impressive showing in the Home Run Derby, the rookie slugger kept the good times going in Miami. Bellinger completed the cycle on Saturday, driving in three runs in the 7-1 victory over the Marlins. In the process, he moved to top of the NL home run charts as well, as the Dodgers carry a nine-game winning streak into the new week. 

Miami Marlins: After hosting inarguably the most colorful All-Star festivities of all-time, the Marlins got back to the business as usual over the weekend, which is a far less cheerful affair. The Dodgers made easy work of the struggling Marlins, who will have more eyes on their roster and what type of potential blockbuster deals they could be involved in, than the continued woeful outcomes as a unit. 

Milwaukee Brewers: Let’s get this straight: the Brewers success is no fluke. As a result, their competition is booting up to chase them down, as the Cubs’ Quintana acquisition proves, as well as the Cardinals stated interest in adding an elite bat to their lineup. The question now is what do the Brewers do: stay the course, which is working well, or get aggressive in upgrading their attack as well. They could be a prime contender for Oakland’s Gray, as well as Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies, who they spent the weekend predictably beating up on. A very literal arms race could be developing in the NL Central.

New York Mets: The Mets must be an infuriating team to root for this year, as their up-and-down ways continue. Despite looking to be left for dead often throughout the first half of the year, they have opened up the post-intermission portion of the year looking like world-beaters again, making seemingly easy work of the Rockies. Jacob deGrom has led the way, pitching into the seventh or later in each of his last six starts, and allowing one earned run in four of those outings. Where things go from here, who knows. As easily as they handled one of the current inhabitants of a Wild Card spot, they could spend the next week in peril against the Cardinals and A’s. You just never know with them this year.

Philadelphia Phillies: Oh yeah, they’re still here in case you forgot. But chances are if you’re a Phillies fan, you sure would like to. Moving on.

Depending on how the next ten days go, this could be the end of Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen’s time in Pittsburgh.  Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: This is the perhaps the most pivotal ten days in the Pirates franchise in years. If they emerge in good shape from their current run against the Cardinals, Brewers and Rockies, they could very much decide to keep the band together and make a run at it into August and beyond. Yet if they fail, it could be the end of days for Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, Josh Harrison and more in Pittsburgh, moves which would signal the end of recent resurgent run in Pittsburgh. After this weekend’s hard-fought victories over the Cardinals, things are off to a promising start. With the return of Starling Marte on Tuesday, the Bucs are prepared to receive a well-timed booster shot when stakes are at their highest. 

San Diego Padres: The Fathers of San Diego will spend their first ten games of the second half battling NL West opponents, including seven games against the Giants, but mixed in there is a series against the Rockies, whom simply calling inconsistent lately would be a massive understatement. The Padres are in position to continue those woes as spoiler, which is the silver lining at this point in the year for teams in their position. 

San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner made his return to the hill for the Giants on Saturday after missing over two months due in the wake of his ridiculous dirt bike accident, and did so in strong fashion, allowing only three runs over seven innings in a Giants victory. In a season long ago lost in San Francisco, the little things like this have to count.

St. Louis Cardinals: Despite sending only two representatives to the All-Star Game, the Cardinals made a big statement. Yadier Molina homered to provide the only run for the NL, while Carlos Martinez worked two dominant innings, striking out four in the process. Yet the new weekend came to a frustrating end, as the Cardinals squandered a late lead to hand a series to the Pirates. As the season continues to mature, such letdowns begin to carry a greater burden; one that a team on the bubble such as the Cardinals cannot afford to let up on.

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Trevor Gott and catcher Jose Lobaton celebrates after defeating the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 16, 2017.  David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals: In between making easy work of the Reds over the weekend, the Nationals struck out to make the move the club hopes makes the difference in this season living up to its full potential. The Nats struck a deal to bring over not one, but two experienced late inning relievers in the form of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. The hopes are that this duo will not be less Papelbon and more punch, as it could be the final piece to the puzzle for the Nationals, who are still in search of the elusive playoff win, especially since they will soon run out of games against the Reds of the baseball world soon.

Yardbarker: MLB

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