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.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rays 6, Marlins 4: A pinch-hit, walkoff grand slam from Daniel Robertson completed a stunning last-inning comeback for the Rays, who trailed 4-1 from the second inning all the way until the ninth. The blast, in addition to being cool as hell, salvaged a win in the series for the Rays, denying the Marlins the sweep. Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer struck out 13 in six innings, but he allowed four runs — three earned — on eight hits.

Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 1: Zack Greinke was outstanding, striking out 13 and allowing only one run on two hits over eight innings of work. Backing him up was a two-run triple and a bases-loaded walk from Nick Ahmed, a two-run single from Jeff Mathis and an RBI double from Steven Souza, not necessarily in that order. Not in that order at all, in fact. I just listed them that way because that’s the order in which they interested me. Beware of unreliable narrators, dudes. It’s a classic trope, but one which still snookers the noobs.

Padres 10, Phillies 2; Phillies 5, Padres 0: In the first game Freddy Galvis had his second straight three-hit game against his old club in a row, Travis Jankowski and Wil Myers each had two RBI and the Padres rattled off 15 hits. In the second game Vince Velasquez took a no-hitter into the sixth and ended up allowing only two hits over seven shutout innings as the Phillies earn the split in the twin bill.

Fun Padres note: yesterday, for whatever reason, some random Padres fan went back and found a tweet I made two years ago about Padres general manager A.J. Preller. The tweet came in the wake of that scandal in which Preller was caught hiding players’ medical information from other clubs in the course of transactions.  In it I said that it may be difficult for other GMs to trust Preller in deals in the future and that because of that the Padres should fire him. For what it’s worth, I thought they should’ve fired him for dishonesty regardless, though they obviously did not.

Anyway, the person who found my tweet retweeted it and several other Padres fans responded back to me yesterday afternoon with mockery, noting that Preller subsequently received a contract extension and that the Padres have a great deal of top prospects in their system. Nowhere, however, did any of those people note that the Padres currently have the worst record in the National League and are working on their eighth straight losing season and their ninth in their last ten. And that it isn’t even close, as they have not won even 80 games in any of those losing seasons and aren’t likely to this year either. But yep, they sure got me with that tweet. I feel totally owned.

Pirates 9, Reds 2: It was 6-0 Buccos after two and 8-0 after four and by then the Pirates were thinking about their super short flight up to Cleveland and the Reds were thinking about catching up on whatever Sunday night prestige TV everyone is into at the moment. I don’t watch much of that and I lose track of that stuff, but “Better Call Saul” is coming back in a couple of weeks and that’s my jam. Anyway, Corey Dickerson homered for the fourth time in three days — he was 4-for-5 on the afternoon — and Starlin Marte went back-to-back with him during Pittsburgh’s four-run second frame. Gregory Polanco and Sean Rodriguez also went deep as the Pirates sweep the Reds for the first time in nearly five years which does not seem like it should be right at all but, yep, it is.

Royals 5, Twins 3: Here’s something Vegas was not taking prop bets on: Drew Butera hitting an inside-the-park homer. A tiebreaking, three-run inside-the-park home run, that is. Which, yes, was given a HUGE assist by an ill-advised attempt to make a diving catch by the center fielder and some backup by the right fielder that was apparently called in via regular U.S. Mail, but let’s not take this away from Butera:

The Royals took three in a row from the Twins and in doing so completed their first series sweep in just under a year, which does not seem like it should be right at all but, yep, it is.

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 4: The O’s led 4-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth but a pair of two-run homers — from Randal Grichuk and Yangervis Solarte — changed that pretty quickly. J.A. Happ‘s latest audition for would-be trade partners went well (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 9K). John Axford‘s did not (1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB), but hey, he vultured a win.

Red Sox 9, Tigers 1: Red Sox recaps feel the same every day. They won. They scored a lot of runs. They got a great pitching performance. Yawn. It’s, like, the banality of dominance or something. Sure, they lost on Saturday and only scored one run in a 1-0 win on Friday, but I didn’t recap those. Perception is everything. Anyway, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run homer and Chris Sale cruised through six, striking out nine Tigers and not allowing a run. Andrew Benintendi and Eduardo Nunez each knocked in a couple.

Rangers 5, Indians 0: It was the Rougned Odor show as the Rangers’ second baseman knocked in the first three runs of the game via a single, a sac fly and a homer. Ryan Rua‘s two-run homer accounted for the other two Texas runs as Yovani Gallardo tossed six shutout innings and the pen covered the rest. Also: first pitch temperature was 102 degrees and it went up to 108 as the game wore on. I’m firmly on the record thinking that the Rangers are ripping taxpayers off in getting them to build them a new ballpark when they have a pretty new one already, but boy howdy do they need that air conditioned one to get finished because this is simply ridiculous.

Dodgers 11, Brewers 2: Matt Kemp smacked two solo homers and had three hits and scored three runs in all and Chris Taylor drove in three as L.A. blows out Milwaukee to take two of three in the series. Manny Machado had a couple of hits and drove in his first run as a Dodger. He finished his first weekend in blue 5-for-13 with a double and a couple of walks. The Brewers played atrocious defense too. Maybe Ryan Braun isn’t a first baseman? Just a thought.

Cubs 7, Cardinals 2: Jose Quintana allowed two runs on six hits and, most significantly, did not allow a home run to Matt Carpenter, and that’s more than opposing pitchers from the last six games against the Cardinals could say. Really, the dude has been on fire. So on fire that the Cubs played a three-man infield against him in the first, moving Kris Bryant to the outfield out of respect for Carpenter’s 12-at-bat streak of hitting for extras bases. My dude laid down a bunt single. Respect:

That was it for the Cards, though. It was competitive for most of the game but Kyle Schwarber hit a tiebreaking homer with two out in the sixth inning and the Chicago broke it wide open with three runs in the eighth, helping them take three of five from the Cards.

Mariners 8, White Sox 2: Ryon Healy hit two three-run homers in this one — one in the first inning, one in the eighth — as the Mariners win in a romp. The other two runs came in the course of a five-run first inning via a bases-loaded walk drawn by Kyle Seager and a Denard Span sac fly. Healy is far from a complete player — he has 20 homers on the season but he hits for poor contact and seems to hate walks like de Havilland hates Fontaine — but it sure was a hell of an afternoon for the big lug.

Angels 14, Astros 5: Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and Kole Calhoun all went deep, with Calhoun driving in three as the Angels salvage the final game of a three-game set with Houston. Trout’s first inning single ended a streak of 16 plate appearances without a hit. Trout slumping is . . . weird and unsettling. Andrew Heaney allowed one run over six.

Athletics 6, Giants 5: Matt Chapman singled in Marcus Semien in the bottom of the 10th for a walkoff win. The win also gave Jeurys Familia his first win in his first game as an Oakland Athletic after he pitched two scoreless innings. This after only arriving in Oakland about an hour before the game began after catching a 7 a.m. flight from New York. Between that and no longer having to be a New York Met, things are looking pretty good for him these days.

Nationals 6, Braves 2: Anthony Rendon doubled in two in the first and Bryce Harper homered and drove in two as the Nats split two games with the Braves in a rain-shortened series. Saturday’s game was postponed and this one was delayed almost two hours at the outset and featured an hour and a half delay in the middle of it. Nothing like a steamy late July day in Washington. Besides, as Nats manager Dave Martinez noted after the game, they made the most of it:

“It’s part of it. We play outdoors. But the boys hung in there. They were all pretty loose in the clubhouse, honestly. Watching Shark Week. So, it was good.”

Live every week like it’s shark week.

Mets vs. Yankees — POSTPONED:

Another rainy day in New York City
Softly sweet, so silently it falls
As crosstown traffic crawls

Memories in my way in New York City
Tender, tough, too tragic to be true
And nothing i can do

City workers cheer
The taxis disappear
Another rainy day in New York City