All-Star Game Lineup 2012: Grading Every Starter's Performance
The 83rd edition of the MLB All-Star Game is underway at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
With the starting lineups already having been analyzed and discussed ad nauseum since Monday morning, we'll add even more to the nauseous mix, so to speak.
We will grade the performance of each starter in the Midsummer Classic, taking into consideration the quality of their at-bats, their defensive plays, their attempts to conquer hitters on the mound, their social media skills while playing and their ability to win over the hearts and minds of the fans.
Well, maybe not the social media skills, and Robinson Cano may be the only player who needs to do the final item on that list.
Nonetheless, we will grade everything else.
National League: Carlos Gonzalez, DH
For Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, being a designated hitter has been a foreign concept to him during his brief career. Nonetheless, manager Tony La Russa loves power at the top of the lineup, so CarGo was his guy.
Gonzalez led off the game facing high-90s heat from AL starter Justin Verlander and then sat down quickly after flailing at a Verlander curveball for strike three.
Leading off in the second inning as well, Gonzalez faced Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan and bounced a grounder to Prince Fielder for a 1-3 putout.
Gonzalez was replaced in the fourth inning by pinch-hitter Matt Holliday, ending his first All-Star performance 0-for-2.
National League: Melky Cabrera, CF
This is the very first All-Star appearance for San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera, and his first start to boot. No one would have blamed him if he had butterflies entering the game.
Cabrera showed why he leads the league with 119 hits, taking Verlander's first pitch and driving it into left-center field for a single. He came around to score from first on Ryan Braun's opposite-field double for the first run of the game.
In the second inning, Cabrera faced Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Cabrera hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano for the second out of the inning.
Facing Matt Harrison in the fourth inning, this time from the right side of the plate, Cabrera absolutely crushed a Matt Harrison offering, putting it into the bullpen in left field for a two-run homer.
All-Star Line: 2-for-3, two runs scored, homer, two RBI
National League: Ryan Braun, LF
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun made his fifth All-Star appearance in just six seasons, missing out in his rookie season.
In the first inning, the reigning NL MVP took a Verlander high fastball and went the opposite way, driving it over the head of right fielder Jose Bautista for an RBI double.
Braun faced Joe Nathan in the second inning, reaching to hit a fly ball to short-right field that Jose Bautista made a terrific sliding catch on to end the top of the second.
Facing Matt Harrison in the fourth inning, Braun hit a shot down the right-field line, registering the second triple of the inning for the National League and the third overall in the game.
All-Star Line: 2-for-3, double, triple, one RBI, one run scored
National League: Joey Votto, 1B
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto entered his third All-Star Game having put up MVP-like numbers in the first half of the season, with a .348 average, a league-leading .471 OBP, a 1.087 OPS and 35 doubles.
In his first at-bat, Votto ran the count full against AL starter Justin Verlander and then got completely fooled on a nasty breaking ball for strike three.
In his second at-bat, facing Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price, Votto grounded out to third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Votto grounded out to Robinson Cano for the final out of the fourth inning, ending his night 0-for-3.
All-Star Line: 0-for-3
National League: Carlos Beltran, RF
St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran made Kansas City his home for the first six-plus years of his career; he felt right at home at Kauffman Stadium.
Beltran came up in the top of the first, swinging at a 98 mph Verlander offering and fouling it off. Beltran worked the count full before drawing a two-out walk.
In the third inning, Beltran, facing Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price, popped up to right fielder Jose Bautista on the very first pitch he saw for the second out of the inning.
The St. Louis outfielder was replaced in the fifth inning by pinch-hitter Bryce Harper.
All-Star Line: 0-for-1, walk
National League: Buster Posey, C
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has certainly made a successful comeback from his devastating collision last year with Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins.
At the break, Posey is hitting .289 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI. Once again, his catching skills and ability to call a game have earned nothing but praise from his pitching staff.
Posey never had to lift his bat off the shoulder in his first at-bat against Verlander, walking on four straight pitches.
Facing David Price in the third inning, Posey fouled out to counterpart Mike Napoli to end the frame.
In the fifth inning following a Bryce Harper walk, Posey lifted a long fly ball to Josh Hamilton for the first out of the inning, allowing Harper to move to second on the play.
All-Star Line: 0-for-2, walk, one run scored
National League: Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Many fans and pundits wondered aloud about the merits of the San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval being voted as the starting third baseman for the NL. Sandoval did miss over a month with a broken hamate bone in his hand.
Perhaps Cardinals fans should have done a better job stuffing the ballot box for David Freese.
Sandoval, facing Justin Verlander in the first inning, cleared the bases with a three-run triple to the right-field corner. So much for Sandoval not belonging. He would score on an infield single by Dan Uggla.
Facing lefty Matt Harrison to lead off the fourth inning, the switch-hitting Sandoval turned around to send a harmless fly ball to center fielder Curtis Granderson for the first out.
Sandoval was replaced defensively by David Wright in the bottom of the fourth.
All-Star Line: 1-for-2, three RBI, one run scored
Update: Considering that Sandoval hit the first bases-clearing triple in All-Star Game history, I've changed his grade to an A.
National League: Dan Uggla, 2B
Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla is another player who was voted in by fans even though he isn't necessarily having a special year, with a .221 average, 12 home runs and 45 RBI.
Nonetheless, Uggla started, and in the first inning he hit a grounder in the hole, beating out Derek Jeter's throw and scoring Pablo Sandoval for an RBI single. Uggla was forced out at second on a fielder's choice by Rafael Furcal to end the first inning.
Much like Pablo Sandoval before him, Uggla lifted a fly ball to Curtis Granderson for the second out of the fourth inning.
In the fifth inning against Jered Weaver, he reached for an outside pitch, popping up to left fielder Josh Hamilton to end the inning.
All-Star Line: 1-for-3, one RBI
National League: Rafael Furcal, SS
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal started the season like a house afire, hitting .333 in the first two months of the season and providing a huge boost at the top of the Cardinals lineup.
However, he has since cooled, hitting just .174 in the month of June and .229 thus far in July. Still, Furcal was worthy of being in Kansas City.
Facing Verlander in the first, he ended the inning with a fielder's choice. Facing Harrison in the fourth, Furcal hit a line drive into the right-field corner, legging it out for an easy triple, the second one of the night at Kauffman Stadium.
Furcal would come around to score the sixth run of the game after Matt Holliday's flare single to right field.
In the top of the sixth inning, Furcal hit a drive to deep center that Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones tracked down for the first out of the inning.
All-Star Line: 1-for-3, triple, run scored
National League: Matt Cain, SP
Many were surprised that NL manager Tony La Russa went with San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain to start over New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey.
Cain has been very good thus far in 2012, with a 9-3 record, a 2.62 ERA and a very special game on June 13, throwing just the 22nd perfect game in MLB history.
On this night, Cain gave up a leadoff infield single to shortstop Derek Jeter. Cain retired Robinson Cano on a foul pop-up to Pablo Sandoval and gave up a long fly-ball out to Josh Hamilton before facing co-American League home run leader Jose Bautista.
Cain blew a 95 mph fastball by Bautista to end the first inning. Nice job working around a leadoff single.
Cain was outstanding in the second inning, getting three quick outs on three lazy fly balls by Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz.
All-Star Line: 2.0 IP, zero runs, one hit, one strikeout, 29 pitches, 18 balls
American League: Derek Jeter, SS
Named to his 13th All-Star team, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is clearly showing that he just won't let age slow him down.
At 38, Jeter's 111 hits lead the American League.
He attempted one of his trademark jump throws to first base in the top of the first inning; however, he was unable to register the out, with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla beating Jeter's throw.
Jeter led off for the AL in the bottom of the first by once again proving to be a tough out. On Matt Cain's sixth pitch, he hit a chopper that deflected off third baseman Pablo Sandoval directly to shortstop Rafael Furcal. Furcal's throw was late, giving Jeter an infield single.
In his second at-bat, facing Gio Gonzalez, Jeter hit a chopper to Uggla at second to end the third.
All-Star Line: 1-for-2
American League: Robinson Cano, 2B
Playing in his third consecutive All-Star Game and fourth overall, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is certainly loved in his home city—not so much here in Kansas City.
After infamously not including hometown favorite Billy Butler in Monday night's Home Run Derby, Cano was booed early and often, with the crowd saving the best for last when Cano was shut out in Round 1 of the Derby.
Cano followed teammate Derek Jeter in the first inning, facing starter Matt Cain. Cain retired Cano on a foul pop-up to Pablo Sandoval to the absolute delight of the fans at Kauffman Stadium.
Facing Stephen Strasburg to start the bottom of the fourth, Cano worked the count before ripping a single to center field. He was left stranded, however, as his teammates failed to bring him in.
All-Star Line: 1-for-2
American League: Josh Hamilton, LF
With a .308 batting average, 27 home runs and 75 RBI, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton collected the most votes in All-Star Game history.
His .635 slugging percentage and 1.016 OPS are certainly nothing to sneeze at, either.
Making his fifth straight All-Star appearance, Hamilton fouled off an offering from starter Matt Cain before lifting a long fly ball to the warning track in left field into the glove of Ryan Braun.
Hamilton faced Strasburg in the fourth inning and hit the ball perfectly into a defensive shift, grounding out into a double play.
All-Star Line: 0-for-2
American League: Jose Bautista, RF
After getting bested by Prince Fielder in Monday night's Home Run Derby, Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista was hoping to tee off on Tuesday night.
Bautista looked like he was fooled on Ryan Braun's opposite-field double, getting a late start on the ball hit over his head. In addition, he didn't cleanly play Pablo Sandoval's ball hit into the right-field corner, allowing the Panda to leg out a triple on the play.
Making his third straight All-Star appearance, Bautista reached for a 95 mph fastball from NL starter Matt Cain and didn't get it, striking out to end the first inning.
Bautista redeemed himself defensively in the top of the second inning, making a terrific sliding catch off the bat of Ryan Braun to end the inning.
Facing Stephen Strasburg in the fourth, Bautista saw high-90s heat from the Nationals star before drawing a two-out walk.
All-Star Line: 0-for-1, walk, strikeout
American League: Prince Fielder, 1B
Coming off his second Home Run Derby victory, Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder hoped to help his new league once again with his fourth appearance in the Midsummer Classic.
Leading off the second inning, Fielder lifted a lazy fly ball to center field into the glove of Melky Cabrera.
In his second at-bat, against Strasburg, Fielder lifted a ball out to left-center field that Ryan Braun made a nice running catch on to end the inning.
All-Star Line: 0-for-2
American League: Adrian Beltre, 3B
Making his third straight All-Star appearance, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre brought his considerable hitting and defensive skills to Kansas City.
Beltre started in the second inning by popping up to shortstop Rafael Furcal for the second out.
In the bottom of the fifth, Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw made quick work of Beltre, getting him to ground out to Furcal for the first out of the inning.
All-Star Line: 0-for-2
American League: David Ortiz, DH
It's not often that you'll see Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz hitting as low as seventh in any lineup, but that's a testament to the great bats throughout the AL batting order.
Ortiz, making his eighth All-Star appearance, made the third out of the second inning with his fly ball to left fielder Ryan Braun.
Papi came up to face Clayton Kershaw and took a pitch to the opposite field, singling sharply to left field.
Ortiz moved to second on a single by Mike Napoli and was stranded on third when Ian Kinsler flew out to Bryce Harper to end the inning.
All-Star Line: 1-for-2
American League: Mike Napoli, C
Much like Pablo Sandoval for the National League, Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli got the starting nod as catcher for the AL despite much better offensive numbers from both A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Wieters.
But hey, it's all about the fans, and they spoke.
Napoli faced Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez to lead off the third inning. He flailed at a Gonzalez curveball to strike out in his first at-bat.
Facing Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the fifth with David Ortiz on first and one out, Napoli lifted a fly ball into left field that Bryce Harper misplayed, losing the ball in the lights for a gimme single.
All-Star Line: 1-for-2, one strikeout
American League: Curtis Granderson, CF
New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson, making his third All-Star appearance, rounded out the rear of the American League lineup. For Granderson, it's certainly different considering he normally hits behind Derek Jeter at the top of the Yankees lineup.
Nonetheless, he came up to face lefty Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the third inning. Granderson popped up to left fielder Ryan Braun for the second out of the frame.
In the fifth inning, with runners on first and second and one out against Clayton Kershaw, Granderson grounded out softly to Kershaw, moving both runners along.
All-Star Line: 0-for-2
American League: Justin Verlander, SP
For Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander, being named to the All-Star team is certainly getting to be old hat—it's his fifth selection in his seven full years in the bigs.
The reigning AL Cy Young and MVP award winner took the hill at Kauffman Stadium, looking to make his 61st straight six-plus innings start.
Well, that wasn't going to happen.
Verlander started out by throwing a 97 mph fastball down the middle against leadoff hitter Carlos Gonzalez. However, he then gave up two opposite-field hits in a row; first a single to Melky Cabrera and then a run-scoring double to Ryan Braun.
After getting Joey Votto on a nasty breaking ball for strike three, Verlander walked Carlos Beltran, putting runners on first and second with two outs.
Verlander then walked catcher Buster Posey on four straight pitches, loading the bases.
Facing Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, Verlander gave up a bases-clearing triple to the right-field corner. Dan Uggla followed by hitting a sharp grounder into the hole between short and third, beating Derek Jeter's throw to first and scoring Sandoval.
Verlander finally ended things in the first by getting St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal to ground into a fielder's choice. But the damage was already done.
Final line for Verlander: one inning, five earned runs, four hits, two strikeouts, 35 total pitches...and went through the entire NL lineup.
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