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The world champion Chicago Cubs and the Baltimore Orioles both struggled throughout the first half of the 2017 season. Both teams will be hoping to start the second part on a better note when they kick off a three-game interleague series at Camden Yards Friday night.
Chicago has posted a surprising 43-45 record in the first half and is tied for second with St. Louis in the National League Central, 5 1/2 games behind Milwaukee.
Mike Montgomery (1-6, 3.75 ERA) will start the series opener against Baltimore's Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.85 ERA).
The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates begin the unofficial second half of the season in the same boat.
Going into their weekend series, starting Friday at PNC Park, the Cardinals (43-45) and Pirates (42-47) are not dead in the water despite being below .500.
St. Louis is tied for second in the National League Central, 5 1/2 games behind Milwaukee. Pittsburgh is fourth, seven games out. A strong run by either might allow them to catch the Brewers.
St. Louis dominated the New York Mets 6-0 Sunday. In its past four series, it has won three and tied one.
Pittsburgh clobbered the Cubs 14-3 Sunday and won five of six games going into the break.
Gerrit Cole (7-7, 4.43 ERA) gets the ball in the series opener for the Bucs. He gave up one run and five hits over six innings in a 7-3 win against the Cardinals June 24, one of his four wins in his past five starts. 
St. Louis, which opens a 10-game road trip, counters with Mike Leake (6-7, 3.12 ERA), who likewise has had a couple of good games against Pittsburgh -- 1-0 in two quality starts.
Left-hander James Paxton (7-3, 3.21 ERA) will take the mound for the Seattle Mariners in the series opener against the Chicago White Sox Friday. The 28-year-old has won back-to-back decisions with strong performances against the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. He has 91 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings on the season.
James Shields (2-1, 4.95 ERA) will make his eighth start of the season. The 35-year-old has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 19 1/3 innings since coming off the disabled list in June.
The White Sox enter Friday's series opener in last place in the AL Central. Only the Oakland Athletics (50 losses) have a worse record than Chicago in the AL.
>>White Sox Reliever Nate Jones Has Season Ending Surgery
Chicago White Sox reliever Nate Jones has undergone season-ending arm surgery.
Sidelined since April 28 because of inflammation in his right elbow, he experienced discomfort during a throwing session last week.
General manager Rick Hahn says the issue stems from Tommy John elbow surgery Jones had in 2014. He says scar tissue formed around the nerve and caused the irritation. Hahn says Jones is expected to make a full recovery by the start of spring training.
Jones had a 2.31 ERA with 15 strikeouts and six walks in 11 appearances this year. He is 20 -10 with a 3.12 over six seasons with the White Sox.
>>Rays OF, Former Cardinal, Colby Rasmus Leaving Baseball
Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus was on the disabled list with a hip injury heading into the All-Star break, but now he might miss the rest of the season with what sounds like an unrelated matter. 
Rays Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin further reports that Rasmus isn't expected to return to the team this season.
On the field, he was having a productive offensive season. In just 37 games, Rasmus was hitting .281/.318/.579 with seven doubles, a triple and nine homers. 

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