Derek Jeter rightfully stood under the spotlight on Tuesday night in his final All-Star Game and passed the torch to Mike Trout on his way out.
The American League will host the World Series for the second consecutive year as a result, one flip of the calendar removed from Mariano Rivera shining in his final Midsummer Classic. SportsCenter illustrated the historic moment:
While much of the attention will be levied at superstars such as Trout, it is both interesting and critical to take a look at players who might have done just enough to garner momentum that will carry over to the second half of the regular season.
Yes, there can be allegations that players don't give it their all at the event, but at the same time, it's still a gathering of the world's best with a rather important prize on the line.
So before the season gets back underway, let's look at a few players who may see their performances translate.
Get this—Yadier Molina was voted in over Milwaukee Brewers' slugger Jonathan Lucroy, yet it is the 28-year-old catcher who went on to be the main offensive spark for the National League in what was a rather dull performance overall.
Lucroy smacked two doubles in as many plate appearances, recording two RBI to boot. As ESPN Stats & Info was quick to point out, that allowed him to join the ranks of the elite in the history books:
Typically, a few hits at the Midsummer Classic are not anything to write home about, but when one is etching himself into the record books, it's time to pay attention.
Lucroy's even making the contest and subsequent success is an ode to the hard work he has put in over the years after being pegged as merely a backup to George Kottaras so many years ago. He has remained quite humble through the process, as captured by Andrew Gruman of Fox Sports:
I think I was given a chance early on in a couple down years we had, except for '11 obviously, but I was able to learn kind of the hard way defensively through learning to call games. I learned a lot through failure and I'm still learning every day. Trial by fire is kind of the best way to learn sometimes. It always feels good to be recognized for everything. Obviously Yadi's been known as the best for a long time, and to be placed in that conversation is something that's a great honor for me, so I'm always happy to hear it.
Entering the contest, Lucroy had tallied just three hits in his last 21 at-bats, good for a .143 average. If his swing Tuesday was any indication, he's back to form.
At 5'5", Jose Altuve is best known for his physical measurements, although this mostly has to do with the fact he plays for the hapless Houston Astros.
Altuve certainly cannot save that team on his own, but he was able to step out of the shadows Tuesday and register a couple of highlight plays.
Not only did Altuve grab himself an RBI on a sacrifice fly, but he also made a jaw-dropping defensive play at second base, which helped to garner rave reviews, such as this one from Jake Brown of CBSSportsRadio.com:
It's important to note that Altuve certainly needed a bit of a boost in the swing department after batting just .286 with one RBI in the week prior to the contest. If that actually doesn't sound horrible, be sure to take into account his superb season average, tops in what has been a wildly successful career so far:
If he's going to keep up in the batting-average race, the swing on display Tuesday needs to bleed into the second half of the season. If not, it's safe to presume he'll recover either way.
Pitching at the All-Star Game is an entirely different animal, with batters going all out in the hopes of putting up gaudy statistics.
Just ask Adam Wainwright about his horrible Tuesday night.
So it makes it all the more impressive that Craig Kimbrel went out in his lone inning and was the definition of dominant, striking out a side that consisted of Derek Norris, Brandon Moss and Ian Kinsler.
"I talk to everybody," Kimbrel said, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com. "I tell them they're either going to get a fastball or a curveball. They know that. I'm not trying to set you up. If they do ask, I might tell them I'm working on a changeup or something."
In his fourth appearance at the Midsummer Classic, one season removed from surrendering a run in another NL loss, Kimbrel shone the brightest of any pitcher. Interestingly enough, his three strikeouts were more than he registered in the seven days leading up to the contest.
Like many of the players in attendance Tuesday, Kimbrel did not necessarily need a momentum boost, but he got one anyway and some global recognition to boot. The Braves, 52-43 and tied for first in the NL East, certainly won't complain.
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