Ohtani a 2-way All-Star again; 6 Yankees, 5 Braves, Astros

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NEW YORK —  In a city of stars, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will be in the spotlight July 19 at Dodger Stadium.

“I think it’s been a couple of years since I got to compete in an All-Star Game, and something about Dodger Stadium, too, is special,” Kershaw said after pitchers and reserves were announced Sunday. “I don’t take that for granted. Like I said before, I hope I didn’t take anybody’s spot that was more deserving than me, but now that it’s official and I get to do it, I am very excited about it.”

A year after he became the first two-way All-Star, Ohtani was picked for the American League pitching staff as a Major League Baseball selection, two days after he was elected by fans to start at designated hitter.

Kershaw, 6-2 with a 2.40 ERA, and pitcher Tony Gonsolin were chosen from the host Dodgers, joining starting outfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Trea Turner. Kershaw was picked by MLB and is a favorite to open on the mound for the NL, which has lost eight straight All-Star Games and 20 of the last 23 played to a decision.

“I’m going to try to take it all in as best I can,” said the 34-year-old left-hander, a three-time Cy Young Award winner. “As the years go by, you start to appreciate things a bit more, so every time I get to pitch at Dodger Stadium, every time we get a win, every time something significant happens, I try to take it in a little bit more now.”

Pitchers Clay Holmes, Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes made the AL team from the Yankees along with catcher Jose Trevino, giving New York six All-Stars for the first time since 2011. Outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were elected to start.

Defending AL champion Houston has five All-Stars, with pitchers Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, outfielder Kyle Tucker and designated hitter Yordan Alvarez selected along with starting second baseman Jose Altuve. Alvarez went on the injured list Sunday because of right hand inflammation.

World Series champion Atlanta also has five. Pitcher Max Fried, catcher Travis d'Arnaud, shortstop Dansby Swanson and DH William Contreras joined outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who was elected by fans.

Contreras will be the NL’s DH in place of Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper, who was elected to start but broke his left thumb on June 25.

Contreras joins Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras as the first brothers in the same All-Star Game since Aaron and Bret Boone in 2003. They will be just the fifth brothers to start in an All-Star Game after Mort and Walker Cooper in 1942 and ’43, Dixie and Harry Walker in 1947, Joe and Dom DiMaggio in 1949 and Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1992.

The New York Mets, St. Louis and Toronto have four All-Stars.

Seattle outfielder Julio Rodriguez was the lone rookie picked and at 21 is the youngest of this year’s All-Stars. There are 30 first-time All-Stars and Rodriguez, who debuted on April 8, is among 10 age 24 or younger.

Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, is hitting .260 with 19 homers and 59 RBIs and is 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 111 strikeouts and 20 walks in 81 innings. He has won five consecutive starts and is coming off a Wednesday outing at Miami when he became the first player in major league history to strike out 10 batters, drive in two runs and steal a base.

In the AL’s 5-2 win last year at Colorado, Ohtani pitched a 1-2-3 first inning by retiring Fernando Tatis Jr., Max Muncy and Nolan Arenado, and grounded out twice.

Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera is the senior All-Star with 12 selections and St. Louis DH Albert Pujols is second with 11, both picks of baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred under a provision for career achievements in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is next with 10, followed by Kershaw and Verlander with nine apiece. Trout was picked for the ninth straight time.

AL pitchers elected by players included Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase, Baltimore’s Jorge Lopez, Toronto’s Alek Manoah and Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan along with Cole, Cortes, Holmes and Verlander.

NL pitchers picked by players were Miami’s Sandy Alcantara, Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader, the Mets’ Edwin Diaz, St. Louis’ Ryan Helsley and San Diego’s Joe Musgrove along with Fried and Gonsolin.

AL position players chosen by colleagues were Minnesota infielder Luis Arraez, Cleveland second baseman Andres Gimenez and third baseman Jose Ramirez, Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielders Byron Buxton of Minnesota and George Springer of Toronto along with Alvarez, Trevino and Tucker.

NL backups selected by players were Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, second baseman Jeff McNeil and outfielder Starling Marte, St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielders Kyle Schwarber of Philadelphia and Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs along with d’Arnaud, William Contreras and Swanson.

MLB called in seven AL players, with Ohtani, Rodriguez and Valdez joined by pitchers Paul Blackburn of Oakland, Gregory Soto of Detroit and Martin Perez of Texas along with Kansas City outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

MLB’s NL choices included Pittsburgh’s David Bednar, Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, Arizona’s Joe Mantiply and Kershaw for the pitching staff along with Colorado first baseman C.J. Cron and Washington outfielder Juan Soto.

At least one player must be included from all 30 teams. Twenty-eight All-Stars were born outside the 50 states.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).