The Last Word

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

So, what went right in the first half of the baseball season?

You already know about B.J. Ryan, who set a Blue Jays record for most saves before the break (23) and how Troy Glaus has made it easier for fans to forget about Carlos Delgado.

What else went right with the best of the rest?

- The Detroit Tigers pitching staff has maintained the American League's best earned-run average from the third week of April. Rookies Justin Verlander (10-1, 3.01 ERA) and Joel Zumaya (4-1, 2.09) have made huge contributions. Verlander had a complete-game shutout in Kansas City in which he was clocked at 99 m.p.h. in the ninth inning.

Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, who both are hitting over .300 going into last night's game, while combining for 25 homers and 109 RBIs, have been healthy, unlike 2005. Centre fielder Curtis Granderson has knocked in 45 runs and Marcus Thames, forced his way into the everyday lineup, leads in homers with 17.

- The Chicago White Sox have a healthy offence, led by DH Jim Thome. He had an AL-leading 29 homers, after playing only 59 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005. The Sox are hitting 57 points higher with runners in scoring position than last year (.259).

Starting pitcher Jose Contreras is 9-0 and hasn't lost since Aug. 15, 2005, while closer Bobby Jenks has blown one save and been clocked at 100 m.p.h.

- The Boston Red Sox new infield of Kevin Youkilis, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez and Mike Lowell has exceeded expectations offensively and defensively.

Youkilis, shifted from third, has been an upgrade at first -- hitting .304 -- over Kevin Millar. Loretta rebounded from an injury-filled season with San Diego and owns a .305 mark. Gonzalez had a slow start with the bat but is on a tear offensively -- he's up to .272 -- and Lowell, forced on Boston in the Josh Beckett trade, has nine homers and 41 RBIs.

Manny Ramirez has neither demanded a trade nor caused any disruptions. And then there is the success of rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon.

- The New York Mets had six players -- David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine, Paul Lo Duca and Pedro Martinez -- named to the all-star team. Wright has been solid, while Reyes has made strides in what has become another injury-free season.

With 24 homers and 65 RBIs, Beltran is not the one who struggled so during 2005 and Glavine, who is 11-2, 3.43, has been reborn since struggling early in 2005. Although his .252 average isn't what he wants, Delgado has 22 homers and 56 RBIs.

- The New York Yankees are still in the hunt and ready to make a move -- we don't think it was adding Aaron Guiel -- because Jason Giambi had a solid first half adjusting to DHing.

Chien-Ming Wang is 8-4 with a 4.21 ERA, Derek Jeter shook off hand injuries to stay among the top 10 hitters for average, while Mike Myers (1.65) and Ron Villone (1.99) have been getting Kyle Farnsworth's outs.

- The St. Louis Cardinals' Scott Rolen is back and 54 RBIs, while hitting .335. Righty Anthony Reyes is 1-3 with a 3.30 ERA, but he has shown he can contribute, pitching a one-hitter against the White Sox but was beat 1-0 on a Thome homer. Albert Pujols is back from injury and has 28 homers and 73 RBIs.

- The Padres own the second-lowest ERA, behind the Tigers, in the majors, thanks to Chris Young (7-4, 3.13), Clay Hensley (5-6, 4.16) and Chan Ho Park (6-4, 4.29). Trevor Hoffman has 22 saves and a 1.09 ERA and ex-Jay Scott Cassidy is 4-4 with a 2.39 ERA.

Adrian Gonzalez has 11 homers and 33 RBIs, while Brian Giles and Khalil Greene have 45 RBIs apiece.

- The Oakland A's sit in first after 81 games, despite numerous injuries. Frank Thomas' 19 homers are second-most on team. Nick Swisher following up a rookie year by leading team in homers (20) and RBIs (51).

Rich Harden, of Victoria, B.C., has missed most of the year, first with an oblique that tore off the bone, now with a UCL strain. Without Harden, they likely won't deal Barry Zito.

So, as we analyze the contenders and crystal-ball gaze into late October, we see the White Sox facing the Mets in the World Series.


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