ARCHIE: I think the Braves will struggle to hold on to their lead but I also think they will squeak it out by a game or so. The Nationals are still in the hunt. Philadelphia still has an outside chance. The Braves however HAVE to get their injury problem under control. They have way too much talent riding the pine right now.
STEPHAN: I picked the Braves at the beginning of the year to win the East division, and I will not shy away from that pick. With the rest of the East playing sub .500 ball the first half of the season, the Braves have all the tools to regain their throne at the top of the East standings.
2. Boston has the slimmest margin of lead at the break. Where will they finish in the AL East?
ARCHIE: As usual, the AL East is one of the most competitive from top to bottom. If Boston can address some of their bullpen woes they could easily take the division. IF they don’t they will continue to bob up and down on top and it will come down to whichever team has the best seven game streak at the end. There is help out there if they can work a trade or two before the deadline. I see them going after Gregg or maybe some other closer type. Who knows; if the Phillies tank it before the end of the month, they might even be able to bring Papelbon back. A continued ratio of 20 for 34 in save opportunities WILL NOT win them the pennant.
STEPHAN: Boston is a wild card here, and that is where I think they end up. Tampa is playing the best baseball right now, and I am not ready to count out the Blue Jays or anyone else in the AL East for that matter. Red Sox finish second in the East, but win a wild card berth.
3. How close will Chris Davis come to Barry Bonds home run record for a single season?
ARCHIE: Here is a good player having a great year. Anytime some player has this many dingers at this point in the season the talk is going to be generated over the single season record. Even as good as he has been he is averaging .390 homeruns per game. At that rate over a 162 game season he will hit 63 homeruns. I DON”T see him increasing to catch Bonds single season record.
STEPHAN: Not even close. He is going to come back to life as a human being in the second half. I see him finishing anywhere from 53 to 57 HR. Well shy of the 73.
ARCHIE: YES and YES. I can see Miggy overcoming Davis in the HR race and when he does he will also put some distance in the RBI total between the two. Miguel is doing things we have not seen in several years.
STEPHAN: No, I think Davis is going to win the HR title this season, but Cabrera will have the best batting average and RBI. He will come about 10 HR shy of winning it again.
5. What team can we look for to surprise us the second half of the season; good or bad?
ARCHIE: This is a real tough question for me. The teams have pretty much set their trends and it is hard to predict any great change to any of them at this point. I can see however that the Miami Marlins after all the hype of new stadium and all challenging for the worst record NOT only this season but as one of the worst seasons by any team in the last decade. If the owner continues his trend he will trade both Cishek and Fernadez before the trade deadline and the Marlins will struggle to win 50 games this year.
STEPHAN: I would have to say the Pirates because in recent years they have been in the hunt at the All Star game and faltered under .500 the rest of the way. This season the Pirates will overcome the odds and reach the post season either by winning the Central or a wild card spot.
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