The Major League Baseball season is on its all-star break. Let's look at some surprising baseball stories this season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Poor Pittsburgh fans have not had a winning baseball team for 20 consecutive seasons. But this year, the Pirates are playing great. Led by all-star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and superb reliever Jason Grilli, the Pirates have one of the best records in baseball.
Can Pittsburgh make the playoffs? Probably, even though the National League Central Division, which also includes the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, is tough. Can the Pirates break their 20-season losing streak? Most definitely.
Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore had its first winning season since 1997 last year. The Orioles have a power-packed lineup that leads the majors in home runs. The question is whether the Orioles have enough pitching to stay near the top of the American League East Division.
"Crush" Davis: One reason the O's have a chance to go far is first baseman Chris "Crush" Davis. He is a late-blooming slugger who didn't play full time in the majors until last season. Now the 27-year-old slugger may hit 50 or even 60 round-trippers this season.
Manny Machado: The Orioles have another star who is on a record-setting pace. Third baseman Manny Machado, who is just 21, may break a record that has been around since 1931: Earl Webb's record for most doubles (67) in a season.
Yasiel Puig: Oh, you haven't heard of this guy? That may be because Puig has played only a little more than a month for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pound outfielder from Cuba is hitting around .400 and impressing with his speed, power and throwing arm.
Maybe major-league pitchers will figure out how to cool off the 22-year-old slugger, but my guess is that you had better learn how to pronounce this guy's name. "Ya-SEE-el Pweeg" is going to be a star for a long time.
Surprise teams, new stars: There are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on baseball this summer.