What debate? Of course Strasburg belongs in the All-Star Game

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Lots of people have spent a lot of time in the past few days debating whether or not Stephen Strasburg should be on the All-Star team.  I’m having a hard time getting my brain around the “no” side of the debate.

The way I see it, the All-Star Game is either (a) a pitched competition of the best players in the game that determines home field advantage in the World Series; or (b) it’s an exhibition designed to showcase the stars and thrill the fans who get to see all of baseball’s brightest lights on one stage on one night.  No matter which of those philosophies you subscribe to, Strasburg belongs, does he not?

For those who believe that the teams absolutely need to play to win, can anyone honestly tell me that there are 13 pitchers National League partisans would rather have throw one or two innings?  Ubaldo, Halladay, Josh Johnson, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Mike Pelfrey, and a handful of relievers have an argument, I guess, but if you don’t put Strasburg in your top 13 most dominant NL pitchers this year, you’re crazy. Put differently, if I needed to pick one dude to strike someone out in order to save my children, I’d pick Strasburg for the job and so would you, and that has to count for something.

Likewise, if you believe the All-Star Game to be a mere exhibition, how can you deny him? What is more worthy of exhibition than Strasburg’s array of pitches? He has spurred ticket sales and TV ratings all year. He’s made guys on other teams drop what they’re doing in the clubhouse just to watch him pitch. I can’t imagine a single player in the National League who has generated more interest than Strasburg has this year. He’s practically designed to be at the center of a three-ring circus.

So what’s the cogent argument against his inclusion? That he hasn’t been up all season? Like that’s his fault? Even if you care about that — which I really don’t — I think he’s done enough in five starts alone to qualify for the “he had a great first half” argument, don’t you?

Besides: the Nats have to have someone in the game. Who you gonna send in his place? Matt Capps?

Nationals complete NLCS sweep of Cardinals, punch ticket to World Series

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The Nationals will officially appear in the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The team that had a 19-31 record in late May, putting manager Dave Martinez on the hot seat, improbably fought back to snag a Wild Card slot, won the play-in game, beat the heavily-favored Dodgers in five games in the NLDS, and polished off a sweep of the Cardinals in the NLCS on Tuesday night, winning 7-4.

After Patrick Corbin tossed a scoreless top of the first inning, the Nationals’ offense wasted no time getting to work. Single, double, sacrifice fly, RBI double, intentional walk, reach on error, RBI single, two-run single, sacrifice bunt, two-run single. That’s how the Nats hung a seven-spot in the opening frame against Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright.

To the Cardinals’ credit, they cleaned things up from there. The Nationals would not score for the rest of the game while the Cardinals clawed back for a run in the fourth before plating three runs in the fifth. Yadier Molina went yard off of Corbin in the fourth. In the fifth, a Tommy Edman ground out and a José Martínez two-run double accounted for the Cardinals’ runs in the fifth.

Corbin ultimately gave up the four runs on four hits and three walks with, impressively, 12 strikeouts across five innings of work. Tanner Rainey worked a 1-2-3 sixth. Sean Doolittle did the same in the seventh.

Doolittle remained in the game in the eighth, getting the first two outs before relenting a single to Marcell Ozuna. Right-hander Daniel Hudson entered for the four-out save opportunity. Hudson hit Molina with a fastball, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Paul DeJong. DeJong worked a full count, then walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter emerged from the dugout to take his cuts against Hudson. After five tense pitches to Carpenter, Hudson got him to ground out to second base to end the inning.

The Nats went down quick in the bottom of the eighth. Hudson emerged from the dugout to send the Nationals into the World Series. He did just that, getting Kolten Wong to fly out to shallow left field for the first out. Matt Wieters popped up to the catcher in fair territory for out number two. At long last, Edman flied out to center field. Nationals win 7-4.

The only other time the franchise reached the Championship Series was in 1981 when the Expos lost three games to two to the Dodgers. The Expos/Nationals then went from 1982-2011 without a playoff appearance. The Nationals lost four Division Series appearances in a row in 2012, ’14, and ’16-17, three of which went the maximum five games. Now they’re in the World Series, improbably. They will await the winner of the ALCS, which the Astros currently lead 2-1.