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MLB Saturday review: Braves the standout at All-Star Break

With just one day of games remaining until the All-Star break, MLB is shaping up for the second half of the season. 

Let’s take a look across the league and see which teams are poised to rise up the standings in the second half.

Rays, Braves remain front-runners

Throughout the season, two teams have had fairly constant storylines: the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves

Both teams lead their divisions, with the Rays two games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East and the Braves 9.5 games ahead of the second-placed Miami Marlins in the NL East. 

While the Rays started off hot, the Braves have been the better team of the two as of late, and, as a result, the Braves now own a stronger winning percentage (.682 to .620) and the best record in baseball. 

The Braves have hit a hot stretch at the right time, winning nine of their last 10 games heading into Sunday. 

The offense has come alive over the past two weeks, with Matt Olson leading the charge (19-51, .373/.439/.843, 6 HR, 16 RBI) and Ronald Acuna Jr. following closely behind (19-51, .373/.469/.745, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 8 SB). 

Ozzie Albies (.898 OPS, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB), Marcell Ozuna (.288, 3 HR, 8 RBI) and Austin Riley (.756 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI) have also played major roles. 

If the Braves’ pitching staff can shake off a few injuries, Atlanta has the ability to cruise in the second half. 

The Rays, on the other hand, are trending down. 

After a red-hot start to the season, Tampa Bay has won just three of their last 10 games. 

While they did play tough competition in that stretch - including Atlanta, Philadelphia and Arizona - the lineup has cooled significantly. 

An excellent example of this offensive lull is Randy Arozarena, who hit just .152 with 2 HR over the past two weeks. 

On the season, Arozarena still boasts a healthy .276 average with 16 HR, 54 R, 58 RBI and 9 SB. 

While Wander Franco (.833 OPS, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 SB) has been effective, the Rays will need players like Arozarena, Yandy Diaz, Josh Lowe and Manuel Margot to find their form once again if they want to hold on to a comfortable lead in baseball’s toughest division. 

Can Reds continue improbable run?

Nobody is all that shocked to see Atlanta at the top of the NL East standings; however, the other two division leaders in the National League – the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks – are major surprises. 

The Reds continue to ride baseball’s biggest hot streak, winning eight of their last 10 games as they sit with a 50-40 record, two games ahead of the second-placed Milwaukee Brewers. The Chicago Cubs are just eight games back in third place.

While the division is still up for grabs, the Reds have been exceptional over the past month or so, and their offense is the primary reason for this success. 

Over the past 30 days, nine Reds players boast an OPS above .775, while four hold an OPS above 1.000, including Will Benson (1.143), Joey Votto (1.050), Jake Fraley (1.033) and Stuart Fairchild (1.059). 

The rest of the lineup has been just as explosive over the past month, with Elly De La Cruz (.324, 3 HR, 15 SB) and Matt McClain (.835 OPS, 5 HR, 5 SB) leading the charge.

On the other hand, the Reds may begin the struggle down the stretch if they can’t get more out of their pitching staff. 

Just two Reds starters boast an ERA below 4.00: Hunter Greene (3.93 ERA over 73.1 IP) and Andrew Abbott (2.38 ERA over 41.2 IP). 

While the bullpen has been decent, the Reds might need to go out and acquire some starting pitching at the trade deadline if they hope to compete in September. 

Full All-Star Rosters, Injury Replacements, HR Derby Participants Announced

The full MLB All-Star teams have been announced; similarly, each injured participant’s replacement has been selected, and we now know who will be competing in the HR Derby.

American League All-Star Starters

C - Jonah Heim, Texas 
1B - Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay 
2B - Marcus Semien, Texas 
3B - Josh Jung, Texas 
SS - Corey Seager, Texas 
OF - Adolis Garcia, Texas* (injury replacement for Mike Trout) 
OF - Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay 
OF - Austin Hays, Baltimore* (injury replacement for Aaron Judge) 
DH - Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles

American League All-Star Reserves

C Salvador Perez, Kansas City 
C Adley Rutschman, Baltimore 
SS Bo Bichette, Toronto 
SS Wander Franco, Tampa Bay 
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto 
2B Whit Merrifield, Toronto 
3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland 
OF/DH Yordan Alvarez, Houston 
OF Luis Robert Jr., Chicago 
OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles 
OF Aaron Judge, New York 
OF Kyle Tucker, Houston 
DH/OF Brent Rooker, Oakland

American League All-Star Pitchers

RP Felix Bautista, Baltimore 
RP Yennier Cano, Baltimore 
SP Luis Castillo, Seattle 
RP Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland 
SP Gerrit Cole, New York 
SP Nathan Eovaldi, Texas 
RP Carlos Estévez, Los Angeles 
SP Kevin Gausman, Toronto 
SP Sonny Gray, Minnesota 
RP Kenley Jansen, Boston 
SP George Kirby, Seattle 
SP Michael Lorenzen, Detroit 
SP Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay 
SP Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles 
SP Framber Valdez, Houston 
SP Pablo Lopez, Minnesota

National League All-Star Starters

C - Sean Murphy, Atlanta 
1B - Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles 
2B - Luis Arraez, Miami 
3B - Nolan Arenado, St. Louis 
SS - Orlando Arcia, Atlanta 
OF - Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta 
OF - Mookie Betts, Los Angeles 
OF - Corbin Carroll, Arizona 
DH - J.D. Martinez, Los Angeles

National League All-Star Reserves

C Elias Diaz, Colorado 
C Will Smith, Los Angeles 
2B Ozzie Albies, Atlanta 
1B Pete Alonso, New York 
1B Matt Olson, Atlanta 
SS Geraldo Perdomo, Arizona 
3B Austin Riley, Atlanta 
SS Dansby Swanson, Chicago 
OF Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia 
OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Arizona 
OF Juan Soto, San Diego 
DH/OF Jorge Soler, Miami

National League All-Star Pitchers

RP David Bednar, Pittsburgh 
SP Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee 
SP Alex Cobb, San Francisco 
RP Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati 
RP Camilo Doval, San Francisco 
SP Bryce Elder, Atlanta 
SP Zac Gallen, Arizona 
SP Josiah Gray, Washington 
RP Josh Hader, San Diego 
SP Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh 
RP Craig Kimbrel, Philadelphia 
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles 
SP Kodai Senga, New York 
SP Justin Steele, Chicago 
SP Spencer Strider, Atlanta 
SP Marcus Stroman, Chicago 
RP Devin Williams, Milwaukee

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