We’re doing it wrong: 2011 All-Star Game preview

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Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is supposed to be a grand spectacle, a chance for baseball fans to see all of the sport’s current greats in one stadium on the same night. And it is that.

But a rule made official in 2003 now dictates that the winner of the Midsummer Classic is awarded home field advantage in the World Series — the chance to host four games of a potential seven-game series.

Major League Baseball wants the outcome of the All-Star Game to matter in order to boost interest and competitiveness (and, thus, television ratings), so we’re forced to take this all way too seriously.

(If taking it “too seriously” involves half-hearted and mostly blind analysis).

Our guess at the starting lineups:

American League

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Josh Hamilton
RF Jose Bautista
DH David Ortiz
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
C Alex Avila

Bench

C Matt Wieters
C Russell Martin
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Carlos Quentin
OF Michael Cuddyer
OF Matt Joyce
DH Michael Young

National League

SS Jose Reyes
CF Matt Kemp
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
DH Joey Votto
RF Lance Berkman
C Brian McCann
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Placido Polanco

Bench

C Yadier Molina
1B Gaby Sanchez
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Chipper Jones
SS Starlin Castro
SS Troy Tulowitzki
OF Justin Upton
OF Hunter Pence
OF Jay Bruce
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Matt Holliday

Both lineups are stacked with power and a nice dose of speed. Jeter is no longer an All-Star caliber player, but neither is Polanco and there’s plenty of danger in the heart of each order to make up for those minor holes. Plus, these starting lineups won’t remain intact beyond the third inning with crowded and talented benches on both sides. The offensive production is going to be a toss-up, especially at Chase Field where home runs fly often. Both clubhouses boast superb power-hitting. The only reason we might favor the National League lineup is because Jeter seems likely to be the sentimental pick at leadoff for American League skipper Ron Washington, and Reyes-Kemp-Braun functions a little better than Jeter-Granderson-Gonzalez.

To the pitching staffs:

American League

SP Justin Verlander
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Gio Gonzalez
SP Josh Beckett
SP David Price
SP James Shields
SP Jered Weaver
SP C.J. Wilson
RP Chris Perez
RP Jose Valverde
RP Aaron Crow
RP Mariano Rivera
RP Brandon League

National League

SP Roy Halladay
SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Cole Hamels
SP Tim Lincecum
SP Jair Jurrjens
SP Matt Cain
SP Cliff Lee
SP Ryan Vogelsong
RP Jonny Venters
RP Joel Hanrahan
RP Heath Bell
RP Tyler Clippard
RP Brian Wilson

We’ll get a better idea later this week as to which pitchers are actually going to be available for the All-Star Game. For now, we’re left only to analyze the staffs as a whole. With Verlander, King Felix, Beckett, Price, Weaver, Shields and Gonzalez, the American League boasts the better rotation arms. All eight starters, including Wilson, have the ability to dominate opponents deep into games. The National League has a trio of excellent Phillies, two young studs in Kershaw and Jurrjens, and a wild card in Lincecum, whose delivery can be awfully tricky for batters who are unfamiliar, but manager Bruce Bochy’s selfish decision to choose Cain and Vogelsong over guys like Tommy Hanson and Anibal Sanchez might be the kicker in the end. Then again, you have to wonder what might happen if the American League is forced to rely on someone like Crow in the later innings. The National League would seem to have a better crop of bullpen arms.

This analysis, of course, is arbitrary. Baseball is a sport played across 162 games, where small sample sizes mean little and any squad has a shot on a given day. The worst team in baseball each season still wins 50 games. It’s going to come down to individual performances. Will Granderson go yard? Will Reyes steal a bunch of bases? Are Joe Buck and Tim McCarver actually gonna provide some enthusiasm?

See you in Phoenix.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 5, Pirates 4: Austin Meadows continues to mash the ball, crushing his fourth home run of the season on a three-hit afternoon. The homer cut the Pirates’ deficit to one run against Amir Garrett in the top of the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough. Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez both went yard for the Reds. Suarez’s was a grand slam:

Angels 8, Blue Jays 1: The Angels chased Marco Estrada in the fifth inning, scoring four runs off of him, including one on a solo home run from Mike Trout that got the right bounce on top of the wall in left-center field.

Albert Pujols picked up a pair of hits, giving him 3,015 in his career. One of those hits was a solo homer, giving him 621 on the career. His next targets on the all-time list are Rafael Palmeiro for hits (28th; 3,020) and Ken Griffey, Jr. for homers (sixth, 630).

Orioles 9, White Sox 3: Dylan Bundy went the distance, giving up three runs on two hits and a walk with a career-high 14 strikeouts. Bundy threw 121 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since shutting out the Mariners on August 29 last year. All three runs scored on a home run by Jose Rondon in the fourth inning. Adam Jones homered on a three-hit afternoon. Manny Machado also picked up three hits of his own. Trey Mancini hit a solo shot of his own off of Lucas Giolito, who owns an ugly 7.53 ERA on the year.

Athletics 4, Mariners 3: The A’s scored all four of their runs against Felix Hernandez in the first inning. Hernandez settled down from there, but it proved to be just too much. He gave up the four runs on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts over six innings. The former Cy Young Award winner now owns a 5.58 ERA on the season. Jean Segura had three hits for the Mariners, raising his average to a lusty .317. This was essentially a bullpen day for the A’s, who used three pitchers to get through the first seven innings. Blake Treinen got the final four outs to seal the deal, staving off a series sweep in Seattle.

Astros 8, Indians 2: Alex Bregman was the star of this one, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning, then adding an RBI double in the Astros’ five-run sixth. George Springer reached base four times and Jake Marisnick had three RBI. Charlie Morton held the Indians to two runs over six innings, which caused his ERA to go all the way up to 2.04. That, by the way, is the third-worst ERA in the Astros’ rotation behind Justin Verlander (1.08) and Gerrit Cole (1.86).

Rays 6, Red Sox 3: Wilson Ramos returned to the lineup, contributing three hits and a pair of RBI. Blake Snell struck out eight Red Sox over six shutout innings, yielding only three hits and two walks. Rick Porcello had a rough night, failing to exit the fourth after surrendering six runs (four earned).

Royals 8, Rangers 1: Salvador Perez had a pair of run-scoring singles. Ramon Torres, appearing in his first major league game this season, scored a couple of runs for the Royals on this little league home run:

Danny Duffy limited the Rangers to one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. The outing helped lower his ERA to 6.14.

Mets 5, Brewers 0: Steven Matz fired six shutout frames, limiting the Brewers to four hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Brandon Nimmo reached base five times, doubling twice with a walk and a triple. Adrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores picked up a pair of RBI each.