It will be pitching that wins the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.
The last five Midsummer Classics have been far from high scoring. From 2007 through 2012, the All-Star Game only averaged 6.4 runs per game—4.4 for the National League (3-2) and 2.0 for the American League (2-3). Don’t expect to see a blowout in either league's favor on Tuesday night.
Which league will win the All-Star Game?
While the pitchers in tonight’s contest are bound to impress, don’t expect to see any of them get much credit for how well they perform. A pitcher hasn’t won the All-Star Game MVP since 1999 when Pedro Martinez took home the award. He struck out five of the six batters he faced in two innings of work.
It certainly will be difficult to top that performance since only two pitchers could end up going more than one inning—unless the game heads to extra innings. Even still, an award doesn’t speak to how well someone does or doesn’t pitch. Each league still has the crème of the crop in terms of pitchers on its rosters for Tuesday.
So, which pitchers are available to take the mound at Citi Field to help their league win home-field advantage at the World Series? Here’s a look at the pitchers for each league with analysis as to how they’ve pitched this season, and how each manager may try to use them.
American League Pitching Staff
Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer (DET)
Reserve Pitchers: Grant Balfour (OAK), Brett Cecil (TOR), Steve Delabar (TOR), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Greg Holland (KC), Justin Masterson (CLE), Matt Moore (TB), Joe Nathan (TEX), Glen Perkins (MIN), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Chris Sale (CWS) and Chris Tillman (BAL)
Max Scherzer has been the best pitcher in baseball this year, hands down.
The Detroit right-hander is 13-1 through 19 starts, and didn’t lose his first game until after taking the mound 18 times this season. In 129.2 innings of work, Scherzer has 152 strikeouts and just 31 walks. He’s been highly efficient all year long and there’s no one else that deserves to start for the AL more.
AL manager Jim Leyland didn’t need to explain his reasoning for choosing Scherzer to start the Midsummer Classic, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:
Leyland on Scherzer: "13-1 Max Scherzer. I don't think I need to explain any more."— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 15, 2013
Scherzer will likely throw an inning or two before Leyland yanks him from the game. While it’s unclear who will come into the game next, one would assume that a few of the starting pitchers will see time.
Chris Sale would be a strong choice for the third inning of the game. While the lefty’s record isn’t too pretty (6-8), he’s been great in 2013. He has a 2.85 ERA in 120 innings of work while averaging 9.83 strikeouts and 2.03 walks per nine innings.
Following Sale should be Felix Hernandez and then Matt Moore. King Felix is 10-4 on the year a 2.53 ERA. He’s walked just 26 batters in 138.2 innings and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Moore is 13-3 in 19 starts and currently features a 3.44 ERA. Leyland should go lefty-righty-lefty-righty to start the night.
From there, your guess is as good as mine. Leyland will probably save a guy or two in case the game goes into extra innings—Chris Tillman and Steve Delabar would by my selections. The only thing that we know for sure is that Mariano Rivera will be taking the field at some point. Leyland confirmed that, according to the MLB's Twitter:
"You will see No. 42 pitch." - Jim Leyland on Mariano Rivera. #ASG— MLB (@MLB) July 15, 2013
Rivera is the best closer of all time and he will be making his last All-Star Game appearance in 2013, as the righty is going to be retiring after the season concludes. He’s 30-for-32 in save opportunities and has only allowed seven earned runs in 34.1 innings of work this year. It should be quite the moment when he jogs in from the bullpen.
National League Pitching Staff
Starting Pitcher: Matt Harvey (NYM)
Available Pitchers: Madison Bumgarner (SF), Aroldis Chapman (CIN), Patrick Corbin (ARZ), Jose Fernandez (MIA), Jason Grilli (PIT), Clayton Kershaw (LAD), Craig Kimbrel (ATL), Cliff Lee (PHI), Mark Melancon (PIT), Sergio Romo (SF), Edward Mujica (STL) and Travis Wood (CHC)
Matt Harvey has been outstanding in 2013.
The right-hander is 7-2 on the season through 19 starts with a 2.35 ERA. The hometown hero features a 10.18 strikeouts-per-nine rate and has only walked 28 batters in 130 innings of work. Mets fans were hoping to see Harvey start the game for the NL tonight and manager Bruce Bochy granted their wish.
Bochy said Harvey would be starting at any venue, and the game being played in New York didn’t matter, per Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:
Bochy on Harvey: "It really wouldn't have mattered what city we were playing in ... He would have been the starting pitcher."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) July 15, 2013
The NL has a ton of fantastic left-handed options after Harvey exits the Midsummer Classic—to what will likely be a standing ovation. Bochy could go with his own starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, who’s 10-5 with a 3.02 ERA in 19 starts. Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee would be two other good bets to relieve Harvey.
One player that the fans should be excited to see is Jose Fernandez. He’s actually pitched at Citi Field twice this season and has allowed just two earned runs in 11 innings of work, but has yet to earn a decision. The 20-year-old is a special kid, and ESPN Stats & Info will help you understand why:
Jose Fernandez: 3rd NL pitcher age 20 or younger with 100+ K at All-Star Break (others: Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 14, 2013
If the NL bats can put a couple of runs on the scoreboard, there’s no question that the lead is going to be safe. The Senior Circuit definitely has the more dominant crew of relievers, which includes Jason Grilli, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Edward Mujica, Mark Melancon and Sergio Romo.
Expect to see Chapman face a batter or two so that he can show off his 100-plus mile-per-hour fastball. If I’m Bochy, I’m going to give the eighth inning to Kimbrel and Romo. Kimbrel is 26-for-29 in save opportunities in 2013 and has a 1.53 ERA. Romo is 21-for-24 with a 2.86 ERA in 38 appearances.
There’s only one choice for the ninth inning and that’s Grilli. The Pittsburgh right-hander is 29-for-30 on the year in save opportunities. He’s allowed just nine earned runs in 40.2 innings of work. He’s also struck out 63 batters and walked only nine. He’s been the top closer in baseball in 2013 without a doubt.