JON KRAWCZYNSKI,AP Baseball Writer

As the second quarter of the baseball season came to a close, the New York Yankees made their move.

The defending champions got off to a slow start by their sky-high standards due to injury, but have surged back to their usual spot on top of the AL East thanks to an MVP-type season from Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher’s first All-Star bid and a starting rotation that has stood out even in the “Year of the Pitcher.”

CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have combined to go 32-7 to help the Yankees take first place away from Tampa Bay and put some distance between them and the banged-up Boston Red Sox.

“Offensively, defensively, pitching, it was all there,” New York first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “And it just shows what we’re capable of when our pitching sets the tone like they did.”

The San Diego Padres have used a similar formula to keep their surprising success going. Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Jon Garland have kept the offensively challenged Padres in games, and Heath Bell has closed them out to keep them atop the NL West.

Pitchers were dominating when The Associated Press identified some first-quarter trends at the end of May, and that didn’t change in the second quarter this year. Two more no-hitters — from Roy Halladay and Edwin Jackson — were added to gems from Dallas Braden and Ubaldo Jimenez, while Washington’s Stephen Strasburg has taken over the nation’s capital.

Fittingly, the signature moment of the first half of this season also came on the mound with Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. Jim Joyce’s blown call that cost Galarraga a place in the record book renewed calls for extending replay in major league ballparks, but it was the classy way that Joyce and Galarraga handled the fallout that still resonates.

Here’s a look at some of the stars, slumps, surges and surprises over the second quarter of the year heading into the All-Star break. All statistics were as of Friday morning.

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STARS:

—Strasburg, RHP, Nationals: Major League Baseball has a new rock star in a town that desperately needed it. He was 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 36 2-3 innings. Only made six starts, but still got All-Star consideration.

—Jimenez, RHP, Rockies: On pace (15-1, 2.20) to challenge Denny McClain’s 31 wins in 1968.

—Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Numbers (.314, 22 HR, 60 RBIs) better than Pujols to lead Reds to first place in NL Central.

—Cliff Lee, LHP, Mariners: Put up incredible numbers for lowly Mariners, going 8-3 with 2.34 ERA, 89 strikeouts and four — four! — walks. Is hottest commodity on trade market.

—Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: Led AL with .347 batting average and 73 RBIs and was just two off the lead in HRs with 21 for surging Detroit.

—Honorable mention: David Price, LHP, Rays (12-4, 2.42, 100 Ks), Jered Weaver, RHP, Angels (8-4, 2.97, 130 K), Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (.292, 17 HRs, 57 RBIs), Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (.345, 22 HR, 64 RBIs).

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SURGES:

—Josh Johnson, RHP, Marlins: Stole some of the spotlight from Jimenez, who has struggled of late. Johnson was leading majors with 1.70 ERA and was 9-3 with 123 strikeouts and only four HRs allowed.

—David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Was hitting .185 with 4 HRs on May 10 and facing questions about being washed up. Hit .298 with 13 HRs, 43 RBIs, .642 slugging in next 46 games for revived Red Sox.

—Yankees: Injury riddled Bombers were 26-18 and six games behind Rays on May 23. Won 27 of next 40 games to jump into first place in AL East.

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SLUMPS:

—Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: Sensational in first quarter of season with .392, 11 HRs, 38 RBIs in 33 games. But has struggled since returning from DL with finger injury, hitting .248 with 3 HRs, 12 RBIs in 34 games.

—Carlos Zambrano, RHP, Cubs: The $91.5 million man was just 3-6 with a 5.66 ERA in 22 games. Has been demoted to bullpen and was suspended after a dugout tirade in game against White Sox a month ago.

—Nick Blackburn, RHP, Twins: Went 5-0 with 2.65 ERA and only two HRs allowed in May. Went 1-5 with 9.28 ERA since to put his rotation spot in jeopardy.

—Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Average has hovered below .200 for most of season and had two homers in 23 games, causing manager Joe Maddon to move him from fourth to seventh in order as Rays fell to second place.

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NICE SURPRISES:

—Arthur Rhodes makes the All-Star team: The Reds 40-year-old setup man earned his first trip to the game in his 19th season.

—Alex Rios’ health: The White Sox center fielder hit .199 with three HRs in injury-plagued 2009. Hit .302 with 14 HRs in first 78 games to help Chicago climb back into AL Central race.

—San Diego Padres and Reds remain in first place: Reds rebuilding project has been accelerated and Padres have been doing it with great pitching from Mat Latos and Heath Bell.

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BAD SURPRISES:

—Joe Mauer’s power outage: Reigning AL MVP hitting below .300 (.297) this late in season for first time since 2007. After belting career-high 28 HRs and slugging .587 last season to earn an eight-year, $184 million contract, Twins catcher has just four HRs and slugging has dropped to .431.

—Tim Lincecum is human: Two-time reigning NL Cy Young has pedestrian 3.16 ERA and four times has failed to reach sixth inning. Still has 131 strikeouts and 9-4 record.

—Phillies languishing: After making World Series in consecutive seasons, Phillies were in third place because their talented lineup was struggling with injuries and inconsistency.

—Twins tanking: Held a 4½-game lead in Central and were 11 games over .500 on June 11. Pitching woes from Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Blackburn contributed to 9-15 stretch that dropped them to third place.

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MEMORABLE MOMENTS:

—Junior retires: Struggling at the plate and proving to be a distraction for the reeling Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. abruptly retired in June. Hitting .184 and benched for two weeks, Griffey made a short announcement before getting in his car and driving off into the sunset toward his family’s home in Florida, ending the greatest career in Seattle history.

—Rockies rally: Down six in the ninth inning to St. Louis earlier this week, the Rockies scored nine times to beat the Cardinals 12-9. No team in the modern era had ever scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth to win a game, according to STATS LLC, whose data goes back to 1918.

—Thome passes Killebrew: Twins slugger Jim Thome still has plenty of pop left, and he showed it on July 3 when he hit two home runs against Tampa Bay to move past Harmon Killebrew for 10th on baseball’s career home run list with 574.


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