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.

Miguel Montero throws Jake Arrieta under the bus after the Nats steal seven bases

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It takes a lot of things to happen for a runner to steal a base. He has to be fast. He has to get a good jump on the pitcher. He has to beat the catcher’s throw down to second and he has to avoid a tag if it’s close.

In light of that, any number of people can, theoretically anyway, be responsible for an opposing base runner stealing a base. The pitcher can be responsible for not holding the runner or for being slow in his delivery to the plate. The catcher can be responsible for getting off bad throws to second. The middle infielder can handle the throw poorly or apply the tag poorly. Or, in some cases, the defense may do everything right and still not nab that runner because he was just too dang fast.

Last night the Washington Nationals stole seven bases off of the Chicago Cubs. Trea Turner, one of baseball’s fastest players and best base stealers, stole four of them. The pitcher on the mound for all seven of them was Jake Arrieta. The catcher behind the plate for all seven of them was Miguel Montero. The infielders for all seven of them were Tommy La Stella and Javier Baez. All of these men, Turner, and his teammates Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor, who also stole bases, were the moving parts in play.

Who was to credit and who was to blame for all of those stolen bases? If you ask Miguel Montero, it was his pitcher, Arrieta:

 

If you can’t watch the video, here’s what he said:

“The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate. It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.”

You can watch all seven of the stolen bases here. Turner gets great jumps and that can partially be blamed on Arrieta. That’s especially true on a couple of steals that didn’t even draw a throw from Montero. But:

  • On one of them Montero bounced his throw;
  • On another it was a delayed steal that seemed to take Montero by surprise;
  • On a third the pitch was high and outside, making it hard for Montero to get rid of the ball quickly but not attributable to Arrieta being deliberate;
  • One came with a runner on third, which caused Montero to, wisely, hold on to the ball to prevent a run from scoring; and
  • On the last one Montero airmailed the throw.

Perhaps someone with a stopwatch on Arrieta could better proportion blame here, but by my estimation Arrieta was clearly to blame for two of them, Montero was more at fault on three of them and the other two were really no one’s fault but circumstance. And that’s without giving Turner, Rendon and Taylor credit, which is just dumb.

But sure, Miguel, go ahead and throw this all on your team’s ace. That’s a fantastic thing for a backup catcher to do. Leads to great job security.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 6, Cubs 1: Max Scherzer allowed one run over six innings, striking out six. Four of the Nats runs came via a couple of infield singles and a couple of Cubs throwing errors. The other two came via a Michael Taylor RBI double. The Nationals stole seven bases off of Miguel Montero and Jake Arrieta, four coming from Trea Turner. After the game, Montero wanted everyone to know that it wasn’t his fault, it was Arrieta’s:

“The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate,” a visibly frustrated Montero said. “It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.”

Team. Player. Joe Maddon, any comment?

Rangers 2, Indians 1: Adrian Beltre hit his 450th homer. And he did it at a wonderful time: in the ninth inning of a tie game, giving his team the win. The homer was his 2,969th career hit. Which is nice.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 1: Kevin Gausman and three relievers held the Jays to a lone run. Which, once you adjust for this being the Orioles, is the equivalent of any other team holding the opposition to, like, negative eight runs. Mark Trumbo doubled in two, Adam Jones singled in one. A ninth inning solo homer from Troy Tulowitzki was the only damage the Jays did all night.

Tigers 5, Royals 3: Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez each homered, helping the Tigers overcome an early 3-0 deficit. Justin Verlander allowed three over seven and the bullpen tossed two shutout innings. Which, once you adjust for this being the Tigers, is the equivalent of any other team’s bullpen shutting out the opposition for, like, eleven innings.

Phillies 8, Mariners 2: Maikel Franco and Arron Altherr homered for the Phillies, who overcame a 2-0 deficit. Which, once you adjust for this being the Phillies, is the equivalent of any other team overcoming, like, a six-run deficit. Aaron Nola allowed two runs over seven and struck out nine.

Red Sox 9, Twins 2: Most pitchers will not come back after a rain delay of more than an hour or so. Here Drew Pomeranz waited out a 76-minute rain delay in the second inning and stayed in the game to deliver five solid innings, backed by homers from Christian Vázquez and Chris Young In his last seven starts, Pomeranz is 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 9 walks in 40 innings. The Red Sox reclaime sole possession of first place in the AL East.

Rays 4, Pirates 2: avid Freese misplayed a groundball at third base in the top of the 10th inning, allowing Steven Souza to score and giving the Rays the win. An Adeiny Hechavarria sac fly added an insurance run. Hechavarria also singled in a run in the eighth. Not a bad first day on the job for the newest Ray.

Reds 8, Brewers 6: The Redlegs were homer happy with Joey Votto hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth and Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez all going deep as well. Travis Shaw hit a three-run shot in a losing cause. The Brewers have lost three of four but continue to hold a one-game lead in the NL Central.

Marlins 6, Mets 3: Mets starter Robert Gsellman left the game after straining his hamstring while trying to beat out a grounder in the fourth inning and will now likely be the sixth Mets starter to hit the DL this year. DH uber alles. He also allowed three runs in three innings, but the Mets came back to tie it with a Travis d’Arnaud homer in the seventh. A pinch-hitting Ichiro singled in J.T. Realmuto in the bottom half of the seventh, however, and Christian Yelich singled in two more in later that inning to pad the Marlins’ lead.

White Sox 4, Yankees 3: The Yankees’ bullpen imploded once again. Leading 3-1 in the eighth, Domingo German and Tyler Clippard combined to issue four walks to allow the White Sox to get within one. In the ninth, Dellin Betances walked two guys and hit a batter before Jose Abreu smacked a walkoff single. Abreu also had an RBI double in the third. The White Sox snap a four-game losing streak.

Athletics 6, Astros 4: Ryon Healy hit a a grand slam in the sixth and Khris Davis scored one run and doubled in another. Sean Manaea was solid into the sixth, holding the mighty Astros lineup to one run. That grand slam gave the A’s needed room to absorb George Springer‘s ninth inning three-run shot.

Diamondbacks 6, Cardinals 5: The Cardinals bullpen blew this one. Leading 5-2 in the eighth, Trevor Rosenthal surrendered an RBI single to Daniel Descalso and a sac fly to Chris Herrmann to allow the Dbacks to get within one. In the ninth, Seung-Hwan Oh gave up a solo homer to David Peralta to force extras. Herrmann struck again in the tent, knocking in Reymond Fuentes with a game-ending RBI single off of Matt Bowman.

Dodgers 4, Angels 0: Kenta Maeda tossed seven shutout innings and the Dodgers scored all four of their runs in the six via a Cody Bellinger RBI single and a Joc Pederson three-run blast. This one was over in a crisp two-hours, thirty minutes. Some kook wrote a column the other day in the Wall Street Journal saying weeknight baseball games should be seven innings. If that was the case here fans could’ve kept their engines running while they watched the game and popped right back out.

Braves 3, Padres 0: Rookie Sean Newcomb shut out the Padres for six innings, striking out eight, to pick up his first career win. He’s only allowed four earned runs in 24.1 innings over four starts, so he probably deserves to have more than the one win. Padres manager Andy Green thinks Newcomb maybe didn’t deserve his eight strikeouts here:

“That was the largest strike zone I have seen against our guys behind home plate. Newcomb threw the ball very well. But Tyler Flowers is the player of the game in my mind. He is snatching balls above the zone, below the zone, and bringing them back in and getting a strike on all of them.”

Miguel Montero agrees, it was someone else’s fault. Atlanta has won eight of ten.

Giants 4, Rockies 3: This one went late but Denard Span finally sent everyone home with a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the fourteenth inning to give the Giants the win. Kelby Tomlinson forced extras with an RBI single in the eighth inning. The Rockies are reeling, losers of seven straight. They were in first place entering play a week ago today. Now they’re in third, five and a half back of the Dodgers. So much for that early season feel good story.