What to watch for in tonight’s All-Star Game

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Tonight’s 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will officially open with Detroit’s Justin Verlander throwing to Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez. Still, my favorite part will take place before that. The Midsummer Classic isn’t the must-see event it was before Baseball Tonight, MLB Extra Innings and MLB.tv made seeing the league’s stars in action so much easier. But I don’t think anything beats seeing the 60-some-odd players line up on the field before the game in their array of uniforms, smiling and waving to the crowd. It’s old hat for some, but for the rookies and the first-time veterans in the midst of career years, it’s a standout moment.

Of course, what happens after they say “play ball” should be interesting to. Here’s what to watch for…

– The much-anticipated All-Star debuts of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Harper was a late selection, only getting on to the NL team because a couple of outfielders had to drop out. Even then, one can argue he’s not really worthy based on his performance this year. I say “so what?” Harper is the next big thing, and he’s plenty good already. Who wouldn’t want to see him come up to the plate in the ninth inning tonight? At 19, he’s the youngest position player in All-Star Game history. He’s actually younger than all but one of the players to take part in Sunday’s Futures Game (the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar was the younger player, in case you’re wondering).

As for Trout, well, there was no doubt he was going to be picked for the AL roster. The 20-year-old isn’t only the AL Rookie of the Year favorite, but he’s right in the MVP mix with his .341/.397/.562 line and league-leading 26 steals to date. A rare combination of speed and power, he rates as the most exciting player in the league right now.

– Chipper Jones’s final All-Star appearance

With a .318/.396/.580 line in 173 at-bats, Atlanta’s elder statesman is putting together a nice last hurrah after announcing his retirement this spring. Barring a playoff run by the Braves, this will be the future Hall of Famer’s last time on the national stage. It will be interesting to see how manager Tony La Russa works him in given that he has four third basemen on the roster (Chipper, starter Pablo Sandoval, David Wright and David Freese). The plan will probably be to have him pinch-hit.

– R.A. Dickey’s darting knuckler and Carlos Ruiz’s attempt to catch it.

Not to mention that AL team’s attempts to hit it.

Dickey deserved to start for the NL squad, but since Buster Posey has never caught a knuckler and the Giants really didn’t want him trying it for the first time tonight, Matt Cain will get the ball instead. The plan is for Dickey and Ruiz to enter the game at the same time, as the Philadelphia catcher was more up for the challenge. Dickey throws a much harder knuckler than what we’ve come to expect from Tim Wakefield and others, and it’s helped him rack up 123 strikeouts, good for second in the NL.

– Four first-time All-Stars in the starting lineup

Here’s the full list of first-time All-Stars

American League
C Mike Napoli (Tex) – starter
OF Mike Trout (LAA) – rookie
OF Mark Trumbo (LAA)
DH Billy Butler (KC)
RP Ryan Cook (Oak) – rookie
SP Yu Darvish (Tex) – rookie
SP Matt Harrison (Tex)
RP Jim Johnson (Bal)
RP Fernando Rodney (TB)
SP Chris Sale (CWS)

National League
C Buster Posey (SF) – starter
OF Melky Cabrera (SF) – starter
DH Carlos Gonzalez (Col) – starter
C Carlos Ruiz (Phi)
1B Bryan LaHair (CHC)
2B Jose Altuve (Hou)
3B David Freese (StL)
SS Ian Desmond (Was) – injured, won’t participate
OF Bryce Harper (Was) – rookie
OF Giancarlo Stanton (Mia) – injured, won’t participate
RP Aroldis Chapman (Cin)
SP R.A. Dickey (NYM)
SP Lance Lynn (StL)
SP Wade Miley (Ari) – rookie
SP Stephen Strasburg (Was)
SP Huston Street (SD)

As for your veteran All-Stars, well, Derek Jeter laps the field there. This is his 13th nod. Next are David Ortiz and Jones with eight apiece.

Report: Dodgers are considering a trade for Addison Reed

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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Dodgers are “exploring a possible deal” for Mets’ right-hander Addison Reed. It’s not the first time the righty has incurred interest from a top contender. The Brewers, Yankees and Red Sox are all supposedly in on Reed, and Newsday’s Marc Carig adds that up to half a dozen teams have already made inquiries prior to the trade deadline.

Reed, 28, is currently in his third campaign with the Mets. He’s coming off of a career-best performance in 2016, during which he looked nearly unhittable with a 1.97 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.5 SO/9 through 77 2/3 innings. His numbers have regressed a little in 2017, but he’s still working with 16 saves and a solid 2.35 ERA, 1.2 BB/9 and 9.2 SO/9 through his first 46 innings.

While there’s no doubt Reed would help stabilize any bullpen he’s dealt to, the Dodgers may have less of a prominent position to offer the right-hander. Kenley Jansen has already locked down the closing role in Los Angeles, which would likely see Reed in some kind of set-up role as he finishes his last season before hitting free agency.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Cardinals 11, Cubs 4: The Cubs finally dropped their first game following the All-Star break, snapping a six-game win streak in dramatic fashion as the Cardinals took Chicago’s bullpen for a ride in the eighth inning. Carl Edwards Jr. kicked off the rally with a double and three consecutive walks, helping the Cardinals to their first run of the inning with a bases-loaded walk. The Cards’ offense did the rest, taking the series opener after they piled on another eight runs to top the Cubs, 11-4.

Phillies 6, Brewers 1: The Brewers aren’t running away with the NL Central anymore, thanks to a skid that was extended to six games on Friday night. Aaron Nola held the club to one run in seven innings, striking out nine of 26 batters to notch his seventh win of the season. Matt Garza kept pace for five innings, but a late-game implosion gave the Phillies a four-run lead — and their 33rd win of the year.

Astros 8, Orioles 7: The Astros looked dominant for eight long innings, from Colin Moran’s first career triple and first career home run to a four-hit night for Yuli Gurriel. None of that seemed to matter in the bottom of the ninth, however, when the Orioles came roaring back with a five-run spread against James Hoyt and Chris Devenski. With two outs and Mark Trumbo at the plate, Ken Giles hung on to preserve the Astros’ lead with a four-pitch strikeout.

Marlins 3, Reds 1: The Reds finally caught a break against the Diamondbacks earlier this week, taking their first win of the second half on a 4-3 nail-biter. Friday saw a return to their slumping ways, with another close call during their series opener against the Marlins. Billy Hamilton put the club on the board with a sac fly in the third inning, but the offense couldn’t solve Jose Urena, who pitched 6 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball.

Mets 7, Athletics 5: Michael Conforto‘s second two-run homer proved the difference maker in Friday’s win. The center fielder took Clayton Blackburn in the third inning with a blast to center field, and returned in the seventh to pad the Mets’ lead with another two-run shot off of Frankie Montas:

Things weren’t all doom and gloom for the A’s: Marcus Semien logged four hits, tying a career-high mark, and the team rallied with RBI singles in the eighth to bring them within two runs of tying the game. Still, it wasn’t enough to close the gap — especially after losing Ryon Healy on a grisly infield hit.

Rangers 4, Rays 3 (10 innings): With all the trade rumors swirling around Texas hurler Yu Darvish, it’s hardly surprising that both the Cubs and Dodgers had scouts in attendance during Friday’s series opener. They couldn’t have picked a better outing to attend: Darvish was lights-out, tossing eight innings with three runs and five hits and striking out a season-high 12 batters.

Indians 13, Blue Jays 3: The Indians rebounded from a series loss to the Giants this week and took their first game against the Blue Jays with a stunning eight-run inning. After carrying a two-run lead against the Blue Jays through the first six innings, the club padded their lead with four consecutive RBI hits against Toronto lefty reliever Jeff Beliveau in the seventh. With a runner on first and one out, Cesar Valdez was brought in to relieve Believau, and instead gave up another three back-to-back RBI to bring the score to a lopsided 13-3.

Tigers 6, Twins 3: Victor Martinez only needed two home runs to carry the Tigers’ 44th win of the year and move them within six games of the division lead. His big moments were only slightly overshadowed by the loss of Miguel Cabrera, who was felled by a line drive in the fourth inning and left the game with a bruised collarbone. Austin Romine replaced the slugger at first base, going 0-for-2 as the bullpen combined for 3 1/3 scoreless frames to lock down the win.

Royals 7, White Sox 6 (10 innings): Yoan Moncada is off to an auspicious start with the White Sox after plating four runs on Friday, including a bases-loaded triple in the third inning.

It wasn’t enough to top the Royals, who came storming back in the 10th with Whit Merrifield’s walk-off sac fly, but Moncada still managed to set a season record during his dash from home plate to third base:

Pirates 13, Rockies 5: After 103 days, the Pirates are back over .500 again. Rookie first baseman Josh Bell carried the Bucs through their double-digit win, going 4-for-6 at the plate and driving in four runs with an RBI single in the first inning and a three-run double in the second. He wasn’t the only one turning heads, either:

The deep fly ball landed for Jhan Marinez‘s first base hit of the year and the first by a Pirates’ reliever since Wade LeBlanc smacked his first RBI single back in May.

Diamondbacks 6, Nationals 5: One bad start does not a bad pitcher make, but this one may have stung just a little too much. Max Scherzer kickstarted his fourth no-decision of the season with not one, not two, but three consecutive home runs in the first inning:

It’s the first time the Nationals’ ace has given up three homers since May 2016, when he issued a career-high four homers to the Cubs’ Tommy La Stella, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist. He allowed another RBI single and double before settling down, and issued three scoreless innings before making his exit in the bottom of the fifth. It wasn’t quite enough to salvage the game, however, as the Nats went on to lose in the bottom of the ninth on Brandon Drury’s walk-off single.

Red Sox 6, Angels 2: Chris Sale is pitching on another level right now. The Red Sox’ lefty took on the Angels during Friday’s series opener, mowing down nine of 24 batters en route to his 12th win of the year. One pitch — a 1-2 heater to catch Kole Calhoun swinging in the sixth — moved Sale into elite company:

The strikeout, Sale’s ninth and final whiff of the night, was also his 200th of the season. According to MLB.com’s Ian Browne and the Elias Sports Bureau, only three major league pitchers have whiffed 200+ batters by their 20th start of the year: Hall of Famer hurlers Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

Braves 12, Dodgers 3: Jamie Garcia’s fifth-inning grand slam was the centerpiece of the Braves’ win on Friday night, catapulting the team to a nine-run lead and giving them the cushion they needed to lock down their second win of the series.

Garcia’s antics weren’t the only thing powering the Braves’ efforts: Garcia plated his first runs of the night on a fielding error, Freddie Freeman went oppo-taco in the fifth and Tyler Flowers clubbed a three-run shot off of the Dodgers’ Grant Dayton. Dodgers fans, meanwhile, tried their best to derail everything by doing this:

Yankees 5, Mariners 1: Aaron Judge has mashed some impressive taters in his rookie year so far: the 400-footers, the base-clearing knocks, the game-winning blasts. This one ranks somewhere among his top home runs of the season, as it very nearly cleared the perimeter of Safeco Field — a feat made all the more astounding by the park’s pitcher-friendly dimensions.

The Mariners couldn’t recover after Judge’s homer or five solid innings from CC Sabathia, and have yet to produce more than one run per game in either of their back-to-back losses this series.

Padres 12, Giants 9 (11 innings): The seagulls that roost in AT&T Park have things to do and places to be, man. They don’t have time to wait around for an 11-inning marathon to reach its inevitable conclusion, nor do they have the patience to split center field territory with Denard Span:

Even a horde of low-flying gulls couldn’t keep the Padres at bay, however: George Kontos and Kyle Crick combined for back-to-back-to-back base hits, allowing San Diego to amass a three-run lead in the 11th and clinch their second win of a four-game set against the Giants.