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The second half of the MLB season is here and the US TODAY Sports & # 39; s Bob Nightengale has the story that all fans should know that lead to the playoffs.
USA TODAY

Two weeks stay up to the Trade Deadline of Major League Baseball and two and more months in its season, but there are so many things you can bring to the bank.

The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Houston Astros will win 100 games. The Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles will lose so many.

Mike Trout will transcend, Manny Machado will look great in Dodger Blue and be sure that dozens of ball players check tweets that sent them when they did (19659009) However, many questions remain unanswered because of the symbolic second half The season starts with most clubs approaching the 100-point mark. Let's examine a few:

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A Nationals Embarrassment?

This side of Houston, there was no greater consensus to win their division than the Washington Nationals, thanks to a loaded roster, a franchisee headed for a salary campaign and a division with four clubs, either rebuilt, demolished or had to wait another year before they made a real run.

Still 47-47, 5 ½ games from the first and do not chase one, but two teams, the Nationals are in real trouble. And they know it.

"Confidence is a choice," says international Max Scherzer, whose club opened the second half with a three-game series against runner-up Atlanta Braves. "What will be different in this clubhouse in the second half is that we have to compete better than the Phillies and Braves to win the division.

" We have to win. This is a kind of important checkpoint. (The Braves) are playing good baseball, they are standing in front of us. We have to win. "

You'll also get tangible bumps beyond the start of a second half." Stephen Strasburg, who has had a shoulder infection since June 8, will begin this first game against the Braves, Daniel Murphy, who will not be on June 12 Bryce Harper finished the first half with eight goals in 15 at-bats due to a knee surgery before the end of the season.By now, it certainly can not be worse than an average rate of .214 and 25% cancellation, right?

That's hope The Nationals Certainly; They Have Little Room for Errors.

Does the Trading Block Affect? ​​

The upcoming trade of Machado with the Dodgers is like opening Christmas presents on Thanksgiving.The glossiest name on the trading block is about two A patron weeks before the deadline.

So who is left? Well, a set of starter pitchers that can be described as usable at this point but not much more than that: left-handed J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels and Francisco Liriano and right-handers Tyson Ross, James Shields, Zack Wheeler, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer are the protagonists, although many come with salary or injury issues or do not even land on the block

As usual will be a cargo enthusiast, led by Mets closer to Jeurys Familia. Orioles Closer Zach Britton will be on the move, and the O's still have time for him to build on his value as he comes back from an achilles tendon injury. Anyone could take Padre closer to Brad, but he will not get as cheap as his team-friendly salary.

Need insult? The group of available batsmen has their own problems. From a purely production standpoint, the best option could be the Rangers DH Shin-Soo Choo, a longtime on-base machine that has one of its best seasons (a 911 OPS) at 36. The Rangers would eat much of its $ 40 million owed the next two seasons, but trading partners could mitigate the blow in prospects by accepting more of that money.

A Likely Met in September: deGrom or Tebow?

This trading group would be significantly strengthened if the Mets decide it's time to engage in deGrom whose agent took the All-Star break to reinforce his client's wishes: Lock me up in the long run or swap me. At 39-55, the Mets are likely to be dealing with Familia, Asdrubal Cabrera and other veterinarians, but the DeGrom decision has far deeper implications for the franchise's progress. A commitment of $ 200 million may not be meaningful to a club with significant gaps. a trade would point to a big makeover, which can be a tougher sale if the other crew in town is a juggernaut.

Meanwhile, East Alley All-Star Tebow has had stomachable numbers put up in 291 AA appearances: A. 272 ​​average and .333 OBP, but only 20 extra base hits. Would a September call be a good endorsement of the retirement of GM Sandy Alderson and the bearers and dreamers in all of us, or an off-the-wall side-off intended to distract us from a bad product in the field?

Have the Brewers already messed it up? ?

Milwaukee was in first place on July 25 last year and within three games of the Chicago Cubs on September 19th. Then Chicago took three out of four and that was it. 2014 saw a 53-43 first half followed by a 29-37 record after the break.

Now the Brewers come in the second half of a humiliating five-game sweep through the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in 10 days they went from 2 ½ games on the Cubs to 2 ½ behind. And now they have to direct the Josh Hader controversy.

Has this rough spot eaten a third straight NL Central title for the Cubs, or will the Brewers find a second half?

"We know that we belong in the end, with all others," insists All-Star Helper Jeremy Jeffress. "Not just the team that wins and then falls again, we know we should be there."

We'll find out soon. The Brewers open with the Dodgers and play 17 in a row against teams with at least 0.500.

Are the Dodgers a "super team"?

OK, let's make that clear: Such a concept does not exist in baseball. You can not just throw the ball at Clayton Kershaw or Machado, erase it and let it go 1-on-1. That said, Machado's upcoming arrival gives them a scary, deep and flexible lineup now that Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor can return to their roaming paths in the infield and outfield.

The Dodgers will grab more homeruns than anyone else. They'll get usable pitch launches now that Kershaw averages less than six innings per start and one group of others rarely goes lower. And so they'll need at least one more impact reliever to patch up these late innings and get what they need in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series.

What a seventh NL West title? Since Machado calls the Chavez Gorge home, there is little doubt.

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