Just minutes from glitzy South Beach, most of baseball’s biggest names will gather at Marlins Park on Tuesday night for the 88th annual All-Star Game. It’s the first All-Star Game ever in Florida.
The starting pitchers were announced on Monday: Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale (11-4, 2.75 ERA, 178 strikeouts) for the American League, and Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer (10-5, 2.10 ERA, 173 strikeouts) for the National League. They are Nos. 1-2 in the majors in strikeouts.
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Sale, a native Floridian, will have friends and family members at Marlins Park to watch. He is the first American League pitcher to start two consecutive All-Star Games in 34 years.
“I’m very appreciative,” the former Chicago White Sox pitcher said of his sixth All-Star appearance. “A lot of hard work and dedication goes into this. … This is a fun time. Being in Miami, an hour and 45 minutes from where I live, makes it even better.”
For the NL, Clayton Kershaw (14-2, 2.18 ERA) is unavailable since he pitched on Sunday for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But even if he were eligible, Chicago Cubs and NL manager Joe Maddon said on Monday that Scherzer would have gotten the nod anyway.
“I have a ton of respect for Mr. Kershaw,” Maddon said. “But I broke down the numbers, and I had already chosen Max. Kershaw is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and (Scherzer) probably will be, too. But based on the numbers, I think this is the right way to go.”
If the Sale-Scherzer matchup were not enough glamour for fans, then consider that this could serve as the coming out party on a national stage for rookie stars from two of the sport’s marquee franchises: the New York Yankees and the Dodgers.
We’re talking about Yankees powerhouse Aaron Judge, who leads the majors with 30 homers, and Dodgers star Cody Bellinger, who is third in the NL with 25.
Both of the sluggers are closing in on potential rookie home run records for their respective leagues: 38 by Frank Robinson in the NL in 1956 and 49 by Mark McGwire in 1987 in the AL. Judge has already broken the Yankees rookie record for homers, which had been held by Joe DiMaggio.
Judge, a right-handed hitter, has the longest homer in baseball this year (495 feet) as well as the quickest exit velocity (121 mph).
Bellinger, a lefty hitter, started the season in the minors.
The presence in the All-Star Game of Judge, a massive man at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, and the 6-4, 210-pound Bellinger is good news for baseball, especially since Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout will be missing.
Trout was hurt at Marlins Park, spraining a ligament in his left thumb while sliding into second base on May 28. The Angels star is, by consensus, the best player in the American League, and this would have been his fifth straight All-Star start.
“I’m honored to be voted in,” Trout said in a statement. “I’m grateful that the fans see me as deserving of such an honor.”
With Trout out, there is still the chance to see Nationals slugger Bryce Harper, who was the game’s leading overall vote-getter.
Harper will try to reverse what for his league has been a nasty trend. The AL has a lopsided 16-3-1 advantage over the past 20 years, including a current four-game win streak. The NL leads the all-time series 43-42-2.
This year’s All-Star Game, however, will be the first since it was decided that the winner would no longer receive home-field advantage in that year’s World Series.
Instead, the players are competing for pride … and money. Each winning player gets $20,000. The losers get nothing.
As to be expected, baseball’s best teams have the most representatives. Case in point: The Houston Astros have three AL starters in the game: shortstop Carlos Correa, second baseman Jose Altuve and outfielder George Springer.
In the NL, the Nationals also have four starters with Scherzer, Harper, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and second baseman Daniel Murphy.
“It’s a reflection on how good our team is,” Murphy said. “We’ve played really well this year. … It’s a team honor.”
The host Miami Marlins have two representatives: starting outfielder Marcell Ozuna and designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton.
Two former Marlins players made the rosters — Padres reliever Brad Hand and Indians reliever Andrew Miller. And it will be a homecoming for former Miami Hurricanes first baseman Yonder Alonso of the Oakland A’s. Not only is this Alonso’s first time as an All-Star, but he also gets to appear in his hometown.
Alonso is one of 23 first-time All-Stars at this year’s game.
Some of the bigger names on the roster include Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.
So who will win this All-Star Game full of glamour, power, youth and drama?
One clue could be who is on the field in the last inning. If it is Boston’s Craig Kimbrel (1.19 ERA, 23-for-25 on save chances), there is a good chance the American League will continue its recent dominance.
But if it is the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen (0.93 ERA, 21-for-21 on save chances), there is a strong shot that the National League finally will break through.