Second half: Five reasons to watch

Even if the Yankees' playoff hopes fade, you'll want to watch Mariano Rivera before he disappears. Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees enter the second half with a showdown series against the first-place Red Sox. The Yankees trail Boston by six games and are three back of the second wild card. So why should you be optimistic? Well, let's count five of the reasons.

(If you are more the glass-half-empty type, click here.)

1. THEY'RE STARTING WELL: The Yankees are pitching like champions -- and they are deep. They have a starting rotation that stuffs six capable pitchers into five slots with the emergence of David Phelps and the re-emergence of Ivan Nova. CC Sabathia usually gets stronger in the second half and Hiroki Kuroda has pitched like an ace.

Plus, Michael Pineda could be useful at some point, making the Yankees seven deep in the rotation.

2. MO'S FAREWELL: Mariano Rivera is an all-time All-Star, taking his final lap. He already has 30 saves in the books and figures to have even more thanks in large part to one of the best bridges ever built for him.

Led by David Robertson, the rest of the bullpen has gotten the ball to Rivera time after time. This pen could be inserted into any of the Yankees' championship teams of the past and they wouldn't miss a beat.

Plus, even if the Yankees fall out of the pennant race, you probably want to stay tuned for the final days of Mo as the closer.

3. A HEALTHY FINISH: Even if you don’t think Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez will be the same players they once were, they figure to be better than what the Yankees have run out in their place in the first half.

Plus, Curtis Granderson could be back early next month. Even if these guys aren’t as good as they once were, they will not be automatic outs like many of the current replacements.

4. REPLACEMENTS ARE DUE: Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells were part of the early fascinating tale the Yankees were cooking up. They have slid considerably off track, but maybe the break refreshes them a bit and they can find a little of the early-season magic again.

Plus, Brian Cashman might cook up a trade that adds a bit of offense.

5. THEY ARE THE YANKEES: They have been making the playoffs nearly every year for two decades. They have been counted out before, but always find a way to sneak in and make some noise. As the Orioles' Adam Jones said the other day, they are a "cerebral" bunch that finds ways to beat you. Maybe they do it again.

QUESTION: What are you excited about in the second half?