NL Stars-AL Stars Preview
NL All-Stars at AL All-Stars
- For the first time in MLB history, there have been back-to-back shutouts in the All-Star Game. Two years ago, the National League picked up an 8-0 victory in Kansas City, and last season, the American League picked up a 3-0 win in New York at Citi Field.
- MLB teams are averaging 4.14 runs per game heading into the All-Star break this season -- the fewest since they also averaged 4.14 runs heading into the break in 1992. The .252 MLB-wide batting average heading into the break is the lowest at the break since 1972 (.244).
- While scoring has been down this season, five different road teams (Red Sox, Angels, Nationals, Braves and Twins) each scored at least 10 runs on Sunday -- marking the first time at least five road teams scored in double digits since August 8, 2012 (also five).
- Oakland has the majors' best record at 59-36 (.621). That's the club's best first-half record since 1990 (51-31, .622), and just their second time having the best record in baseball at the break (also 1988, 54-34). The A's are second in the majors in runs per game (4.91) while ranking tied for first in runs allowed per game (3.38); they are the first team to rank in the top two of both categories at the All-Star break since the 1995 Indians.
- Every MLB team has won at least 40 percent of its games this season, something that could be said at the All-Star break just three times previously: 1943, 1958 and 1992. The Rangers have baseball's worst record at 38-57 (.400), the first time in the franchise's Texas history (since 1972) that they have had the worst mark in the majors at the All-Star break.
- Derek Jeter will be playing in his 14th and final All-Star Game tonight. Jeter's 3408 career hits are eighth most all-time and third most in MLB history among players who have played exclusively for one franchise. Jeter needs just 12 more hits to pass Carl Yastrzemski (3419) for seventh place on the all-time hits list and 23 more hits to pass Honus Wagner (3430) for sixth place.
- Troy Tulowitzki has had one of the greatest first halves ever by a National League shortstop. His 1.048 OPS is the second-highest OPS ever by an NL shortstop prior to the All-Star break (minimum 200 PA). The only NL shortstop with a higher OPS before the break was Pittsburgh's Arky Vaughan (1.121 in 1935).
- Clayton Kershaw has won his last eight starts, including a no-hitter versus the Rockies on June 18. His 41.0-inning scoreless streak that ended Thursday is MLB's longest since Brandon Webb in 2007 (42.0), and longest by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser's MLB-record 59.0-inning streak in 1988.
- Felix Hernandez' active streak of 11 consecutive starts with at least seven innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed is the longest streak in the majors since Mike Scott had a 12-start streak in 1986.
- White Sox rookie Jose Abreu leads the majors with 29 home runs. He is the fourth rookie all-time to have the MLB home run lead at the All-Star break (first All-Star game in 1933), joining Al Rosen (1950 Indians), Jose Canseco (1986 A's), and Mark McGwire (1987 A's). Abreu has hit safely in 26 of his last 27 games entering the break, with 10 homers and 22 RBI over that span.
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By RONALD BLUM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Mike Matheny had quite the choice for the National League's All-Star starter.
There was his own Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals ace with a 12-4 record and a 1.83 ERA.
And there was the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA and fresh off a 41-inning scoreless streak that ended last week.
He chose Wainwright, who will start Tuesday night at Target Field against the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez.
"It's going to be great catching them," said Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy, the NL starter behind the plate. "A lot more fun than facing them."
When baseball's elite met at Citi Field last year, NL batters managed just three hits in a 3-0 loss. A year earlier in Kansas City, the AL had just six hits in an 8-0 defeat.
Never before had consecutive All-Star games ended in shutouts.
"Guys are throwing harder. Guys have more pitches," said Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, making his sixth All-Star appearance and first since 2010.
The big league batting average is at a 42-year low. Strikeouts are at an all-time high.
Wainwright and Kershaw are on track to become the first pair of qualifying pitchers in one league with a sub-2.00 ERA since the Mets' Dwight Gooden and the Cardinals' John Tudor in 1985 - the last time Minnesota hosted the All-Stars.
"Aside from having the ability to win two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think this has to be one of the highlights of my baseball career to this point," Wainwright said. "One of the coolest things I can say I did is to start a big league All-Star game."
Kershaw understood Matheny's decision.
"If I'm him, I'm probably going to pick Adam, too. It's his guy and he had the best half," Kershaw said.
Hernandez, the first Venezuela pitcher to start for the All-Stars, also has sterling credentials: an 11-2 record with a 2.12 ERA. He described his task pretty simply:
"Just throw zeroes out there and get my team to win. That's all I got to do," he said.
Back in the great pitching era of the 1960s, the game was different. Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal expected to finish what they started.
Now, flame-throwers come out of the bullpen in the middle of games.
"You're not getting three, four at-bats off of the starter unless you're in trouble and you're losing the game," said Baltimore's Matt Wieters, elected as a starting catcher but sidelined following elbow surgery. "I think for a while it was trying to get the starter out of the game so you can get to that fifth, sixth, seventh-inning guy. And now those fifth, sixth, seventh-inning guys are throwing upper 90s with a good breaking ball."
In addition to pitchers, the spotlight will be on New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter. The shortstop, who turned 40 last month, is playing his final season and was selected for his 14th All-Star game.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera got an emotional sendoff last year, the All-Stars giving him a solo bow. When Rivera entered in the eighth inning all other players left him the field to himself.
Cal Ripken Jr. was given a tribute at the start of the 2001 game at Seattle's Safeco Field when Alex Rodriguez told Ripken just before the first pitch to switch positions and move from third base to shortstop, where the Baltimore star spent most of his career. The 40-year-old Ripken then homered in the third inning.
And two years ago, Atlanta's Chipper Jones was feted with a standing ovation at Kauffman Stadium when he pinch hit in the sixth inning and singled.
What will Jeter's All-Star finale be like?
"I don't go into things with expectations," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing the game. I've pretty much stopped it right there."
The game is being played in Minneapolis for the third time, following the NL's 6-5 win at Metropolitan Stadium in 1965 and a dull 6-1 NL victory indoors at the Metrodome in 1985.
Oakland, a big league-best 59-36 at the break, has seven All-Stars for the first time since 1975. It got another win on Monday night when Yoenis Cespedes beat Cincinnati's Todd Frazier 9-1 in the final round to become the first repeat champion of the Home Run Derby since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and `99.
The Athletics have some incentive for an AL victory in the All-Star game; since 2003, the winner's league gets to start the World Series at home, and 23 of the last 28 titles were won by teams scheduled to host four of a possible seven games.
"I don't think you can ever underestimate the home-field advantage in a postseason," said AL manager John Farrell, who led Boston to a six-game win over St. Louis last year. "To have that final game potentially in your home ballpark, that goes a long way to affecting the outcome."
Updated July 15, 2014