The 87th annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday night in San Diego’s Petco Park, pitting the American League against the National League with home field advantage in the World Series once again on the line. Last year, the AL beat the NL, 6–3, for its third straight win, with Angels superstar Mike Trout winning MVP honors for a second consecutive year. Can the NL end its losing streak? Here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know heading into the game.
Venue: Petco Park, San Diego
First Pitch: 8:16 p.m. ET
Managers: Terry Collins, Mets (NL); Ned Yost, Royals (AL)
For the first time in All-Star history, the host team’s league will be the visitor. That’s because the NL was the home team last year at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. With the exception of an odd period from 1951 to '62, the home team for the All-Star Game has alternated every year, with the venue corresponding to the league. But from 2015 through '18, the game will be in an NL park every year; Miami ('17) and Washington ('18) are up next.
With home field advantage in the World Series tied to the outcome of the All-Star Game, MLB has opted to uncouple the home team from the home field in the game itself in order to keep things fair. The NL will once again be the home team next year at Marlins Park, and the AL will be the home team at Nationals Park in 2018.
Starting Pitchers: Johnny Cueto, RHP, Giants (13–1, 2.47 ERA) vs. Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox (14–3, 3.38 ERA)
An All-Star for the fifth consecutive year, Sale will be making his first Midsummer Classic start. He deserves it, as he has been the best pitcher in the AL this season. Sale did not appear in last year’s game but factored heavily into the previous two. In 2013, he was the first man out of the AL bullpen and worked two scoreless innings to pick up the win. In 2014, he entered with the AL leading 3–2 in the top of the fourth but gave up a run to earn a very early blown save.
Cueto is starting in large part because the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is injured and San Francisco teammate Madison Bumgarner pitched on Sunday and is thus ineligible to play in this game. Cueto's only other All-Star season was 2014, but he did not get into that year’s game, so this start will mark his All-Star debut.
American League Lineup
Jose Altuve, Astros, 2B
Mike Trout, Angels, CF
Manny Machado, Orioles, 3B
David Ortiz, Red Sox, DH
Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox, SS
Eric Hosmer, Royals, 1B
Mookie Betts, Red Sox, RF
Salvador Perez, Royals, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox, LF
Cueto has his work cut out for him: The top three men in this lineup are all MVP candidates, and the 40-year-old Ortiz is the major league leader in OPS (1.107). All nine of the AL starters were voted in by the fans, and while my ballot may have differed, all are solid picks. The possible exception is Hosmer, but he was nonetheless the third-best first baseman in the AL in the first half behind fellow All-Stars Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis.
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News and Notes To Know
Proud to be an American: The AL has dominated All-Star competition over the last quarter century: Since 1988, the AL leads the NL, 21–6, including a 13–6 victory the last time the game was played in San Diego, back in 1992. In a 13-year span from 1997 to 2009, the best the NL could do was a tie in the infamous 11-inning game in Milwaukee in '02, when managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly ran out of pitchers. The NL broke that slump with three straight wins from 2010 to '12, but the AL has not lost since then.
Mr. MVP: The relationship between Trout and the AL MVP award has become fraught. He has arguably deserved to be the league's MVP in each of the last four years, but he has won the award only once, back in 2014. He has had an easier time nailing down the All-Star Game’s MVP award, however, becoming the first player ever to win it in consecutive All-Star Games since it was introduced in 1962 and joining Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Gary Carter and Cal Ripken Jr. as the only two-time winners. In 2014, in Minnesota, Trout went 2 for 3 with a double, a triple and two RBIs, plating what proved to be the game-winning run in the fifth inning. Last year, he was less obviously deserving, but he did lead off the game with a home run off Zack Greinke, and he later walked and scored. If Trout wins the award again this year, he’ll be the first player ever to win it three times.
Hardware or no, it's clear Trout is a fan of the All-Star Game: He is 5 for 10 with two doubles, a triple, a home run, two walks and a stolen base in five Midsummer Classics. His 1.783 OPS in All-Star play is the highest for any player with at least 10 plate appearances in the game’s history.
Take a Bow: The All-Star Game has figured prominently in several memorable farewell seasons. Most memorably, Cal Ripken Jr. homered and won the MVP award in 2001; Mariano Rivera won the MVP award after pitching a perfect eighth inning in '13; and in '14, Derek Jeter doubled and singled in his only two at-bats. This year, all eyes should be on Ortiz, who has a flair for the dramatic and enters the game hot, having homered in three of the last four games of the first half. This will be Ortiz’s seventh All-Star start and 11th game overall; he is 5 for 16 (.313) with a home run and a pair of walks coming into this game.
#PitchersWhoRake: It’s unlikely to happen, but with all of the conversation about pitchers participating in or having their own Home Run Derby, there has to be some level of temptation for Collins to use a pitcher as a pinch-hitter in this game. Because of his Sunday start, Bumgarner is not on the active roster, but Jake Arrieta and Jose Fernandez are both strong candidates. Arrieta, the Cubs ace who has said he’d prefer not to pitch in this game, has hit .282/.349/.462 with two home runs this season, and Fernandez delivered a game-winning double as a pinch-hitter for the Marlins in the 12th inning of their win over the Braves on July 1.
Another compelling candidate to hit: the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who didn’t deserve an All-Star nod but got one from Collins anyway as a replacement for Bumgarner. Colon became the oldest player ever to hit his first major league home run when he homered at Petco in early May shortly before turning 43, and being a Met, Collins wouldn’t have to worry about upsetting another manager or team by using Colon as a hitter.
AL and NL Rosters
*replacement; ^Final Vote winner
C: Stephen Vogt, A’s; Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
2B: Robinson Cano, Mariners
SS: Francisco Lindor, Indians; Eduardo Nuñez, Twins
3B: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
OF: Carlos Beltran, Yankees; Ian Desmond, Rangers; Michael Saunders, Blue Jays^; Mark Trumbo, Orioles
P: Dellin Betances, Yankees; Brad Brach, Orioles; Zach Britton, Orioles; Alex Colome, Rays; Cole Hamels, Rangers; Will Harris, Astros; Kelvin Herrera, Royals; Corey Kluber, Indians*; Andrew Miller, Yankees; Jose Quintana, White Sox*; Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays*; Steven Wright, Red Sox
Off AL Roster:
Wade Davis, RHP, Royals (injury); Marco Estrada, RHP, Blue Jays (injury); Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Red Sox (injury); Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians (injury)
C: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers; Wilson Ramos, Nationals
1B: Brandon Belt, Giants^; Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
2B: Daniel Murphy, Nationals
SS: Aledmys Diaz, Cardinals*; Corey Seager, Dodgers
3B: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
OF: Jay Bruce, Reds*; Adam Duvall, Reds, Odubel Herrera, Phillies; Starling Marte, Pirates*
P: Jake Arrieta, Cubs; Bartolo Colon, Mets*; Jeurys Familia, Mets; Jose Fernandez, Marlins; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Jon Lester, Cubs; Mark Melancon, Pirates; Drew Pomeranz, Padres*; A.J. Ramos, Marlins; Fernando Rodney, Marlins; Max Scherzer, Nationals*; Julio Teheran, Braves
Off NL Roster:
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants (Sunday start); Matt Carpenter, IF, Cardinals (injury); Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Mets (injury); Dexter Fowler, CF, Cubs (injury); Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers (injury); Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (recent DL stint); Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (injury)