Midseason notes: Braves hit All-Star break atop Norris

After three consecutive last-place finishes, the Boston Braves are more than half way to a worst-to-first turnaround.

The Braves, who won a total of 66 games over the past two seasons, reached the All-Star Break at 53-33 to hold a 3 1/2-game lead over Cleveland and 5 1/2 in front of Chicago in the Norris Division race.

Rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber has been the star of the Braves’ offense, with 19 homers and a .313 average – almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers. Danny Valencia checks in with team highs of 21 homers and 64 RBIs while hitting at a .280 clip.

Across the way in the NL, the Ottawa Argonauts have shot to a 14 1/2-game lead in the Maple Leaf Division. Infield stars Josh Donaldson and rookie Carlos Correa each have 20 homers already, while Taijuan Walker boasts an 11-2 record.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletes continue their dominance in the SL, bolting to a 70-15 mark that has put the 23-year-old league record of 130 wins within striking distance. The Athletes all but have the Cactus League crown secured with Las Vegas 26 1/2 games back.

Oakland’s Zack Greinke leads the league with a 15-0 record and a 1.82 ERA while Dallas Keuchel follows close behind at 14-1 and 2.58. Paul Goldschmidt has his sights trained on a possible SL Triple Crown, leading the way with a .338 average and 95 RBIs. His 25 homers are second in the SL, five behind Tijuana’s Jose Bautista.

Not to be forgotten, the defending champion St. Louis Clydesdales are up 5 1/2 games in the Confederate Division as they attempt to win a third straight division crown. Rookie outfielder Randal Grichuk has shined with a .303 average and 19 homers.

Among other individual leaders, Chicago has three different players pacing the NL in the Triple Crown categories: Nick Markakis hitting .356; Giancarlo Stanton with 33 homers and Mike Trout with 73 RBIs.

The Cardinals’ Gerrit Cole owns a 2.16 ERA while Cleveland’s Michael Pineda has the NL’s best record at 13-1. Toronto’s Max Scherzer has the inside track to the strikeout title with 170; Louisville’s Jake Arrieta tops the SL in punchouts with 128 to go along with an 11-4 record and a 2.20 ERA.