For the first All-Star Game in Washington in nearly a half-century, who better to start the game for the National League than a guy who is establishing himself as one of the best pitchers of the last half-century - oh, and who, by the way, also happens to be doing all this for the hometown club?
Max Scherzer indeed will start Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Nationals Park, a fairly no-brainer decision for NL manager Dave Roberts, who may have had other worthy candidates for the assignment but none who fit the bill as perfectly as the Nationals ace.
Scherzer, who leads the league in wins (12), strikeouts (182), innings (134 2/3) and WHIP (0.899), didn’t have as low of an ERA (2.41) as the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (1.68) or the Phillies’ Aaron Nola (2.30). But he had the complete package, plus the sentimental value of starting the Midsummer Classic on his own mound.
“It’s well-deserved,” Roberts said. “It’s his city. It’s his ballpark.”
This is Scherzer’s third All-Star starting assignment in his career, his second in a row. As a member of the Tigers in 2013, he took the mound in the first inning at Citi Field. Last year, he represented the Nationals by starting the game at Marlins Park.
“It’s just an honor to be able to have that recognition and go out there and start this thing again.” Scherzer said. “Because this is just a dream come true.”
Scherzer’s opponent last year in Miami, Chris Sale, will again oppose him on South Capitol Street. The Red Sox ace actually is starting his third consecutive All-Star Game, joining Lefty Gomez (1933-35) and Robin Roberts (1953-55) as the only pitchers in major league history to do that.
Thus, Scherzer and Sale become the 14th and 15th pitchers ever to start at least three All-Star Games. The only pitchers not in the Hall of Famer on that list are Roger Clemens and Billy Pierce.
“It’s a big honor, and I know this doesn’t happen very often and in a long time, so I appreciate it,” said Sale, who leads the AL with a 2.23 ERA and 188 strikeouts. “I’m going to try to have some fun with it, too. That’s why we’re all here.”
This is Scherzer’s sixth consecutive All-Star selection. He has pitched four scoreless innings overall, allowing only two hits without issuing any walks. He has retired 12 of the 14 batters he’s faced in these contests.
Scherzer will be facing a star-studded American League lineup that includes Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Manny Machado. And, as has been the case in his previous All-Star appearances, he doesn’t intend to take this assignment lightly.
“Honestly, it’s probably the closest thing you get to the postseason in terms of the atmosphere and the intensity and everything,” he said. “A lot of times, I’ve always looked at pitching in the All-Star Game as a prelude to how you pitch in the postseason. Sometimes how you might have to pitch on two days’ rest out of the pen, only throw one inning, and then you have to go face the best hitters. That’s what you do in the All-Star Game.
“I’ve always loved pitching in these events. You can take something from it, because you can use it later in the year.”
A rematch of starting pitchers hasn’t happened since 1939-1040, when Red Ruffing of the Yankees squared off against Paul Derringer of the Reds at games at Yankee Stadium in New York and Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.
Here are the starting lineups for the game, as chosen by Roberts and AL manager A.J. Hinch ...
2B Javier Baez
3B Nolan Arenado
DH Paul Goldschmidt
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Matt Kemp
CF Bryce Harper
RF Nick Markakis
SS Brandon Crawford
C Willson Contreras
RHP Max Scherzer
RF Mookie Betts
2B Jose Altuve
CF Mike Trout
DH J.D. Martinez
3B José Ramírez
LF Aaron Judge
SS Manny Machado
1B José Abreu
C Salvador Perez
LHP Chris Sale