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?
The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.
Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.
The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.