Baseball’s first half had its share of odd moments and surprises

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In St. Louis, there was a 4½-hour rain delay in the ninth inning before Kansas City outlasted the Cardinals. The game ended at 3:14 a.m. at Busch Stadium, and created travel trouble for the umpires, too — they worked at Wrigley Field in Chicago the next afternoon.

“We worry about that game when we get to that one,” crew chief Joe West said. “We had to worry about this game tonight.”

And recently, a Giants-Reds rainout in Cincinnati had the teams talking about making it up at Coors Field, of all places. A neutral site in Denver might indeed be the most convenient spot for both clubs later this year.

NEW WAVE

Be it Manny Machado, Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, the face of baseball is changing. Young stars are dominating, and also revving up the debate: Should Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig — that’s “Pweeg” — be on the All-Star team?

Jeff Locke is trying to pitch Pittsburgh toward its first playoff spot in two decades, Shelby Miller is dealing in St. Louis and Wil Myers is finding his stroke in Tampa Bay while Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin are leading Arizona. They were all excelling at the same time former perennial All-Stars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Ramirez were toiling in the minors.

Oh, and let’s salute Orioles slugger Chris Davis, who’s proven HR-or-K hitters can learn the strike zone. Davis hit his major league-best 36th homer in Baltimore’s 7-3 loss to Toronto on Saturday night.

SUMMER SURPRISES

Overhauled Toronto and R.A. Dickey, the powerized Angels and Hamilton, plus the revamped Dodgers have all struggled to reach the .500 mark. The Nationals also hit a wall — rather, Harper did while chasing a ball and landed on the disabled list.

Houston moved to the American League and got off a terrific start, beating Texas in the major league opener. Reality quickly set in, however. Their next time out, the overmatched Astros came within one out of having Yu Darvish throw a perfect game against them.

Much harder to figure, Matt Cain and the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

A year ago, Cain pitched a perfect game. This year, he had one start when he gave up nine runs in an inning, another start when he permitted nine hits in an inning and, earlier this week, he was chased in the first inning.

Added up, the pitching-rich Giants fell far below the break-even point as the All-Star break neared — even with Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter late Saturday night.

“For the way we think we are as a group and the team that we are, we feel like this is really, really funky,” Cain said.

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