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?
Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.
It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.
The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.
In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.
Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.