Robinson Cano should expect a warmer welcome this evening than he received in Kansas City at this past week's All-Star Game, as the New York Yankees kick off the second half of the season in the opener of a three- game set versus the LA Angels at Yankee Stadium.
Cano was booed lustily throughout the festivities at Kauffman Stadium for not picking Kansas City's Billy Butler for the American League squad at the Home Run Derby.
Regardless, Cano returns home tonight for the Yankees, who start the second half atop the American League East with the best record in all of baseball at 52-33.
"It's been a strange first half, I think," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's been kind of streaky for us; at different times different parts of our game has struggled, but I give our guys a lot of credit. They found ways to win games.
"It's better than not being where we're at. You just have to play well and try to win series, and if you can do that, things should take care of themselves."
Cano is a big reason why the Yankees are 41-25 since April 28 and a season- best 19 games over .500.
The All-Star second baseman hit .313 in the first half with 20 home runs, 51 RBI and 57 runs scored. He also enters tonight's contest riding a 15-game hitting streak, during which he is batting .393 with five homers and 16 RBI.
Getting the call for the Yanks tonight will be Japanese righty Hiroki Kuroda, who is 8-7 with a 3.50 ERA. Kuroda was not sharp in his final start before the break, as he allowed seven runs (six earned) to the Boston Red Sox over 5 2/3 innings. He also gave up 10 hits and was spotted a five-run first inning lead. However, he failed to hold the advantage, but escaped with a no-decision in his team's 10-8 win.
Kuroda beat the Halos back on April 13 with eight scoreless innings and is 2-2 in four starts versus them with a 1.71 ERA.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, will be trying to start the second half better than it did the first. The Angels stumbled badly out of the gates, winning just six of their first 20 games, but rebounded nicely and went into the break at 48-38.
The call up of outfielder Mike Trout changed the team's season. The 20-year- old was not only the league's best rookie through the first half of the season, but he may have been the AL MVP.
Trout leads the AL with a .343 average, has 12 home runs, 15 doubles, 40 RBI and 57 runs scored to go along with 26 stolen bases, while he also played Gold Glove-caliber defense.
"He's not playing over his head," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's just a young player who's playing to his potential at a very, very young age, and that's rare."
Heading to the hill for the Angels tonight will be lefty C.J. Wilson, who lost his final start before the break. Wilson was beaten by Baltimore last Friday, as he allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings to fall to 9-5 on the year to go along with a 2.43 ERA.
Wilson beat the Yankees earlier in the season, but is just 1-3 lifetime against them with a 3.54 ERA in 22 games (5 starts).
Wilson has only surrendered six home runs in 111 2/3 innings this season. He will have his work cut out for him tonight against a Yankees club that has left the park a major league best 134 times.
The Yankees, though, are just 2-14 this season when they don't hit a home run.
The Angels have split six meetings with the Yankees this season.