Four Braves players make National League All-Star roster

The National League All-Star starting lineup will feature two Atlanta Braves for the first time in 15 years.

First baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Nick Markakis led their respective positions in fan voting to become the first pair of Braves players to start an All-Star Game since Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield in 2003. Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies and starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz joined their Braves teammates on the National League roster.

This is the first time the Braves have earned at least four All-Star nods since Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, Michael Bourn and Craig Kimbrel represented the league in 2012.

“It’s still kinda hard to put into words,” said Freeman, who led all National League players in total All-Star votes. “The love and support that we’ve gotten from Braves Country and all fans around baseball, it’s pretty special.”

Freeman earned his third All-Star nod thanks to an MVP-caliber first half.

The Braves superstar is slashing .315/.406/.542 with 16 home runs in 399 plate appearances, sitting in the league’s top three in on-base percentage, wins above replacement and weighted runs created plus.

“This is a big deal,” Freeman said. “To have Nick Markakis go to the All-Star Game, you almost get a little bit emotional. He deserved it many more times before this. Guy who has over 2,000 hits, the ultimate pro. It’s going to be awesome to see that.”

Now in his 13th MLB season, the 34-year-old Markakis is heading to his first-ever All-Star appearance after rediscovering his prime form in the season’s first half. The veteran outfielder leads the NL in total hits and he’s batting 35 percent above league average, which would rank as the second-best mark of his career and his best single-season performance since 2008, with a .389 on-base percentage and .490 slugging percentage.

The selection removes Markakis from the odd distinction as the player with the second-most career hits without making an All-Star appearance in MLB history.

No other player in baseball history had played more games before earning his first career All-Star selection.

“It’s kind of emotional. I know my kids and my family are going to be ecstatic, especially my two older ones,” Markakis said. ” … I just went out there and did my job, played baseball and everything else took care of itself.”

Ozzie Albies is the youngest selection to either 2018 All-Star roster.

The 21-year-old second baseman has been an extra-base machine for the Braves since his promotion last August, totaling 70 in 590 career at-bats. This season, he’s slashing .281/.320/.512 with 18 home runs as the Braves’ spark plug in front of Freeman and Markakis.

“It means a lot to me,” Albies said of being voted in by his peers. “For me, I know now they know what I can do. I’m just going to keep doing my thing out there.”

Foltynewicz is the third Braves player earning his first career All-Star selection after posting a 2.37 ERA and 3.17 fielding-independent pitching over 17 starts — both ranking in the top 15 among qualified MLB starters.

The 26-year-old right-hander has struck out 114 batters with 40 walks in 2018 and he’s on his way to career-best marks in home-run rate, strand rate, groundball percentage and wins above replacement.

“It’s a huge honor,” Foltynewicz said. “The main goal this year was just to be consistent, not trying to make All-Star games, just trying to go out there and win game by game for my team. I’ve been doing (a) better job with that this year, which I think is just a huge step for me.”

Dan Uggla’s 2012 All-Star appearance was the last time a Braves player started in the Midsummer Classic.

The Braves earned the minimum number of All-Star representatives each of the past three seasons with Shelby Miller (2015), Teheran (2016) and Ender Inciarte (2017).