Once again, World Series home field advantage is on the line as the best of the American and National Leagues do battle at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, tonight.
The game may not have much bearing on the Cleveland Indians, stuck at 42-46 and eleven games in back of the well-represented first place Kansas City Royals. While the Tribe is just five and a half games out in the AL Wild Card race, there are several other teams they would have to hurdle just to climb higher in those standings. It does not mean the outcome of the game will not affect the Indians, but to reap the reward of an AL victory, Cleveland has a tall mountain to climb.
The Indians are represented by just one player this season, second baseman Jason Kipnis, whose stellar first half, especially when looking past an abysmal first month of the season, has placed him at the top of most significant offensive statistics this season and has him frequently mentioned as one of the best second basemen in the game today. He will come off of the bench for the AL, likely the first man up to replace starting second baseman Jose Altuve midway through the game.
For Kipnis, it is his second time honored with an All-Star selection, joining his trip to Citi Field in 2013. He played a big role in that game, as he replaced Boston’s Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the seventh and hit an RBI ground-rule double off of Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel to give the AL their third run in a 3-0 win.
The game itself follows a notable and generally well-received change to the Home Run Derby on Monday night. Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier was the winner in walk-off fashion, defeating 23-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson. The contest, once slowed to a crawl with a ten-out limit and numerous pitches being taken, featured a much more intense four-minute window that saw players swinging at most pitches that were close. Contestants were able to earn a bonus time of 30 seconds based on achieving a number of tape measure shots.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
The 27-year-old Keuchel has been one of the biggest driving forces in the revival of the Houston Astros. The left-hander, in his fourth big league season, has thrown more innings than anyone in baseball this season, has three complete games tossed, and leads the league with two shutouts. He entered the break tied for the AL lead in wins with eleven, second in ERA with a 2.23 mark, and third in the AL with a 1.01 WHIP. It is his first All-Star appearance.
The 12-year veteran Greinke is often overshadowed in Los Angeles pitching behind fellow All-Star Clayton Kershaw in their rotation. He carries an active scoreless streak of 35 2/3 consecutive innings on the mound with him into tonight’s game and leads all of baseball with a 1.39 ERA at the break. It is the third time he has been selected as an All-Star and his second with the Dodgers, following his trip to the game last season. He was also an All-Star for the Royals in 2009, when he won the Cy Young Award.
Coverage of the Midsummer Classic begins at 7:00 PM ET on your local Fox affiliate. Viewers north of the border can follow along on Rogers Sportsnet and RDS. Radio calls of the exhibition will be provided by ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes.
American League: National League:
CF Mike Trout (LAA) CF Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
3B Josh Donaldson (TOR) 3B Todd Frazier (CIN)
1B Albert Pujols (LAA) RF Bryce Harper (WAS)
DH Nelson Cruz (SEA) 1B Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
RF Lorenzo Cain (KC) C Buster Posey (SF)
LF Adam Jones (BAL) DH Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
C Salvador Perez (KC) SS Jhonny Peralta (STL)
2B Jose Altuve (HOU) LF Joc Pederson (LAD)
SS Alcides Escobar (KC) 2B DJ LeMahieu (COL)
Mngr Ned Yost (KC) Mngr Bruce Bochy (SF)
The National League holds a 43-40-2 advantage over the American League heading into the 86th game.
This will be the first time that Great American Ball Park has played host to an All-Star Game after opening in 2003. Cincinnati will now have hosted five of the games, including 1938 and 1953 at Crosley Field and 1970 and 1988 at Riverfront Stadium.
ON THE MEND
Jose Bautista (OF – TOR) – right shoulder injury; replaced by second baseman Brian Dozier
Miguel Cabrera (1B – DET) – calf injury; replaced by first baseman Mark Teixiera
Alex Gordon (OF – KC) – strained left groin; replaced by outfielder Brett Gardner
Sonny Gray (SP – OAK) – replaced by Hector Santiago due to pitching on 7/12
Dee Gordon (2B – MIA) – dislocated thumb; replaced by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki
Matt Holliday (OF – STL) – replaced by outfielder Ryan Braun
Max Scherzer (SP – WAS) – replaced by Clayton Kershaw due to pitching on 7/12
Giancarlo Stanton (OF – MIA) – broken left hamate bone; replaced by third baseman Kris Bryant
Tuesday’s All-Star Game is the 45th anniversary of the classic collision at home plate between Indians catcher Ray Fosse and Reds star Pete Rose. The National League won the game, 5-4, on Rose’s run in the 12th inning in Cincinnati.
Cabrera and Pujols are the veteran All-Star leaders on the roster. It is the tenth selection for each as All-Stars. Pujols, who participated in the Home Run Derby Monday, made his first AL All-Star roster and will start at first base for the injured Cabrera.
Donaldson was the leading vote getter amongst all players with 14,090,188 votes, breaking the previous record of 11,073,744 set by Josh Hamilton in 2012. Harper also eclipsed Hamilton’s mark this season, drawing in 13,864,950 votes.
NL starter Greinke will have an opportunity to oppose two of the players who were part of his trade from Kansas City to Milwaukee in 2010. Both Cain and Escobar were part of the return for the Royals. Cain, hitting fifth, has a far more likely chance to face Greinke than Escobar, who is hitting ninth.
Michael Brantley was the lone Indians representative last season, despite a deserving effort from pitcher Corey Kluber. Current teammate Brandon Moss was also on the roster, as well as former Indians pitcher Scott Kazmir and DH Victor Martinez.
This is the first time the Indians have gone consecutive seasons with just one All-Star representative since 2009 and 2010. Martinez was selected for the Tribe in 2009, while Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez) was the club’s rep in 2010. They have not gone three straight years with just one selection since 1978-1980, when Jim Kern (1978), Sid Monge (1979), and Jorge Orta (1980) were the team’s honorees. Both Monge and Orta did not play in their games.
Kipnis becomes the first Indians second baseman to make at least two trips to the All-Star Game since Roberto Alomar made three straight for the Tribe from 1999 to 2001. Alomar was named the starter in each of his first two trips. Carlos Baerga (1992-1993, 1995) made three before Alomar at second.
Baseball resumes around the league on Friday with a full slate of games. Trevor Bauer (8-5, 3.76) will take the bump for the Tribe in Cincinnati against the Reds at 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer