The 2016 MLB All-Star Game is a true showdown of power hitting versus overpowering pitching.
The American League lineup features six of the top 10 home-run hitters in the majors. The National League pitching staff features hurlers boasting eight of the game’s 10 lowest ERAs — though only six of them will be available for the game.
And for understandable reasons, both managers are smitten with their rosters.
Said AL Manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals:
“It’s a tremendous group of offensive players. This group has amassed, together, an amazing 142 homers and 636 RBIs. … It’s an extremely exciting lineup. It’s got speed. It’s got power. It’s got a lot of offensive capabilities.”
NL Manager Terry Collins, of the New York Mets, has decided to counter that treacherous group with San Francisco Giants righty Johnny Cueto:
“It’s an honor to name my starting pitcher. We had a tremendous group of starting pitchers in the National League this year. … I thought this guy pitched has pitched the best in the first half of this season. He deserves this opportunity for what he did, and what he did to us in the World Series last year.”
Cueto (13-1, 2.47 ERA) was a member of Yost’s World Series winning squad a year ago — twirling a complete-game win in Game 2. This year, he merely leads all of baseball in complete games (4) and innings pitched (131-1/3) while also posting the third-best ERA, 115 strikeouts (T-15), and the NL’s highest win total.
He will start the game in trouble, though, as he will throw the first pitch of the contest to MLB’s top hit producer (119) Jose Altuve who collects hits at a second-best .341 clip. The “Junior Circuit” will also throw out a pair of Boston Red Sox who have run hit streaks beyond 25 games this year — Jackie Bradley Jr. (29) and Xander Bogaerts (26).
While the NL holds a clear advantage on the mound, and the AL is the obvious favorite in the box, their opposites are no slouches.
Said Collins of his offensive options:
“I told my coaches, yesterday when we were trying to make up the lineup, that I thought Chris (Sale) was going to start the game. One of my coaches said, ‘ well, who do you want to play.’ And I said, ‘just pull them out of a hat, we’ve got the best players in the game.'”
The Chicago White Sox ace, Sale (14-3, 3.38 ERA), leads the American League in wins.
A lanky lefty who racks up strikeouts (123) using a mid-90’s heater, “The Condor” said his gameplan going into the game is rather simple:
“I’m planning on just letting it eat for an inning — just getting after it.”
Through fan voting, most of the lineups are set. For Yost, the only decision — aside from the batting order — was picking his starter. On the NL side, Collins had to decide on a designated hitter.
After a discussion that, he said, included some numbers crunching, the “Senior Circuit” skipper went with the home-town boy. By tabbing San Diego Padres first baseman Wil Myers, Collins endeared himself to an adoring fan base starved to share their love — as was evident when Myers was greeted with an extended standing ovation when he was announced at the Home Run Derby Monday night.
With the sum of their decisions, both managers are certain that the baseball world will be treated to an exciting and entertaining contest. One befit for the reward in the balance, as the winning side’s World Series participant will once again receive home-field advantage.
Yost, who has coached in consecutive World Series, spoke to the importance of that advantage:
“It’s vitally important, and we’ve got a room full of tremendously talented players. If we win this game, it’s going to affect somebody — or somebodies — in that room. Home-field advantage is huge.”