The world's only exhibition game that counts will take place on Tuesday evening, when the American League and National League fight for an extra home game during the World Series.
Silly? Yes. The dumbest stipulation in all of sports? Probably. But it certainly motivates Paul Goldschmidt to potentially help out the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2015 MLB All-Star Game.
On the bright side, almost everyone short of the Philadelphia Phillies can harbor some semblance of playoff aspirations, especially in the AL, where the last-place Oakland Athletics are 41-50 with a plus-44 run differential and eight-game deficit.
Perhaps Jonathan Papelbon will claim some crucial outs for the NL before getting traded to an AL club this month. Desperate attempt to mean something aside, the Midsummer Classic offers an incredible display of talent, both young and old. Besides, what else is on TV?
2015 MLB All-Star Game
Date: Tuesday, July 14
Where: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
Time (ET): 8 p.m. (Broadcast starts at 7 p.m.)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
All-Star Starters: Zack Greinke (NL) vs. Dallas Keuchel (AL)
On Monday afternoon, both managers announced their All-Star starting pitcher, per MLB's Twitter page:
The honor is more cosmetic than anything else, at most giving Zack Greinke and Dallas Keuchel two innings instead of one. Yet with the Dodgers leading the NL West and the Houston Astros expediting their rise to contention, each hurler enters the summer showcase with ample motivation.
Neither ace has piled up the strikeouts, but both have benefited from low batting averages on ball in play (BABIP). Yet they'll kick off the festivities due to tremendous run prevention over the first half.
|MLB All-Star Game Starters|
Although Sonny Gray garners an AL-best 2.04 ERA, he lowered it during a complete-game shutout on Sunday. As a precaution for keeping pitchers healthy, starters are taken out of the fold if they throw the final game before the break.
The rule also strips the NL of Max Scherzer, who has posted a 2.11 ERA and MLB-best 2.20 fielding independent pitching (FIP), 10.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 4.7 fWAR. Greinke's minuscule ERA probably still would have netted him the nod, but the Washington Nationals saved NL manager Bruce Bochy from a difficult decision by using the Cy Young front-runner over the weekend.
Alas, the Dodgers' 31-year-old righty got the call. He remained reserved during Monday's press conference, per the Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough:
Greinke also compared his stellar start to 2009's AL Cy Young Award campaign with the Kansas City Royals, per ESPN's Jayson Stark.
He's right. Six years ago, he generated a career-high 242 strikeouts, leading to a 2.33 FIP, below his current 2.65 clip. Both times, the ace received no help from his teammates. After winning 16 games during a dominant 2009, he has amassed eight victories this season. Greinke has finished 14 of 18 starts with one or no runs relinquished.
Meanwhile, nobody would have pegged Keuchel as a likely All-Star starter in April. Although he recorded a 2.93 ERA in 200 innings last year, he did so following two straight seasons with ERAs above 5.00. The 27-year-old now enters the bout with a 2.23 ERA and career-high 21.3 strikeout percentage.
Houston's southpaw harnesses his powers by inducing an inordinate amount of grounders. Among qualified starters, only Brett Anderson has spawned a higher ground-ball percentage than Keuchel's 64.1 mark.
He'll have his work cut out for him when trying to generate weak contact against Andrew McCutchen, Todd Frazier, Bryce Harper and Goldschmidt to commence the interleague clash.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs.