The New York Mets, a National League team, run by manager Terry Collins, last fall watched his team from the dugout as the opposing team’s pitcher Johnny Cueto dominated them in the 2015 World Series. Tonight, he will hand over the baseball to Cueto as the starting pitcher against the American League all-star team, which will be the 87th MLB All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego.
Collins and his Mets were defeated by the Kansas City Royals last October. So media were surprised with his starting pitching choice, but he told them that his decision to name Cueto, 13-1 with a 2.47 ERA in his first season with the San Francisco Giants, was an easy decision. The choices did get narrowed down with the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw out on the disabled list, and the San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner ineligible to play since he started last Sunday’s game.
“I think his numbers speak for themselves,” said Collins, talking about Cueto’s complete game with the Royals in Game 2 of the World Series last year when he was a Royal. “That was the best outing I’ve ever seen him have.”
The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and a Chicago Cub, Jake Arrieta, will probably not play in Tuesday’s game, but it’s not because he got looked over for the start, but that Arrieta has lost three of his past four games as the Cubs went into a downhill slide coming into the all-star break.
“The last three outings, I haven’t pitched very well,” he told media. “If I had took care of business, I probably would have been the starter or considered a little more highly.”
The AL will have Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale to start for them, chosen by Royals manager Ned Yost. Sale is a 27-year-old power lefty who has an impressive record of 14-3 with a 3.38 ERA and 123 strikeouts. He told local media that he plans to “let it eat” for an inning, and would play as a special tribute to late Padres Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn who died at the age of 54 of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco.
“I chewed tobacco from 2007 until the day he passed away,” Sale said. “I remember seeing that and just being so shocked. I quit that day and haven’t touched it since. In a sense, I owe him a huge thank you for not only myself, but for my family. Hopefully I can maybe sway somebody in the right direction as well like he did for me.”
The National League has a strong lineup which will be led by former Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist, who signed with the Cubs in the offseason. And Washington Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper will play second base, alondside third baseman Kris Bryant, who was one of five Cubs voted as starters for the All-Star Game. And so, the entire Cubs’ infield will back up Cueto on the mound. Since the vote, Miami Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna was named as an injury replacement for Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler who won’t play.
For the AL, Boston Red Sox will have their designated hitter David Ortiz is playing in his final All-Star game at the ripe age of 40. Known as ‘Big Papi’, many of the games young stars, like Harper, are in awe of his swan song. Ortiz hit 23 home runs in the first half of the season so far and doesn’t look like he’s slowing down.
“To see what he’s doing this year, at that age, just goes to show how mentally strong and physically strong he is,” said Harper of Ortiz, who himself has 20 home runs and 34 doubles for the Nationals this season.
The American League has an impressive 10-3 wins record since they changed the format granting the winning league home-field advantage in the World Series. It’s a benefit Yost has taken advantage of. As manager of the team last July in Minneapolis, Yost said the win gave his team a “big advantage to go back to a place where we’re completely comfortable.”
The National League has home field advantage, though losing last year when the AL beat them 6–3, for its third straight win. The AL’s superstar Mike Trout won MVP honors for a second consecutive year and so that’s something that the NL will want to end, alongside a long losing streak. The NL had three straight wins from 2010 to 2012, but the AL has not lost since then. It should be an exciting game with a ton of skill and showmanship.
Our Pick: NL over AL, 7-4
National League Lineup
Ben Zobrist, Cubs, 2B
Bryce Harper, Nationals, RF
Kris Bryant, Cubs, 3B
Wil Myers, Padres, DH
Buster Posey, Giants, C
Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, 1B
Marcell Ozuna, Marlins, CF
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, LF
Addison Russell, Cubs, SS
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