The best of the best from the Nationals will get to represent the club and Washington, D.C., in nine days at the 89th All-Star Game, which will be held in their own ballpark.
Major League Baseball announced Sunday night that the Nationals will be represented by right-hander Max Scherzer, outfielder Bryce Harper and closer Sean Doolittle at July 17 All-Star Game at Nationals Park.
Scherzer earned his sixth All-Star invitation. He has posted an 11-5 record with a 2.33 ERA in 19 starts this season, recording a major league-leading 177 strikeouts.
“When you have a Max Scherzer on the mound, he gives you a chance to win every fifth day,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said.
Now the next question is whether Scherzer will be the National League starter. Scherzer is not worried about that, but he certainly is relishing the opportunity to pitch in the game in his home stadium in front of Nats fans.
“Whenever I get to pitch is going to be awesome,” he said. “I’ve gotten a chance to be a part of these a handful of times now and it’s always been really cool to see the hometown fans get behind the hometown all-stars. I think some of the cool memories I’ve seen over the year is the fan support.
“And for us representing ourselves as the Nationals here in our home park, I think this will be an experience unlike any other that we’ve been a part of. That has us just itching to get out there and play and just go out there and compete and compete for our fans.”
Harper will also be making his sixth All-Star appearance. He is ninth in the major leagues with 21 home runs, and is batting .218 with 50 RBIs.
He promised he would participate in the Home Run Derby on July 16, and he is excited that his father, Ron Harper, will likely get to pitch to him again. Winning the derby would be nice, too. But just like Scherzer, he feels pride in being able to perform in front if the D.C. faithful at Nats Park.
“I think doing it is going to be a lot of fun,” Harper said. “I was able to participate in New York the first time and it was a lot of fun. If I win, I win. If I don’t, it’s part of it. I’m just excited to hopefully share that day with my dad, if I do have him throw to me.
“But just excited for the fans to be able to do that in front of them, as well. it’s the main reason why I’m doing it. If we weren’t in D.C., I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I’m looking forward to going out there and representing the Nationals and hopefully bring home the trophy.”
Harper said his memories of being around his family for the event and getting to talk with other All-Stars he normally doesn’t get to talk with during the season makes for a very special experience.
“Yeah, I think that’s the coolest thing,” Harper said. “Growing up, you always play catch with your dad and enjoy those moments and I was able to do that every single day. I’m looking forward to just having the family around at the All-Star Game. Having my dad in the clubhouse, that’s truly cool. Seeing all the All-Stars and being able to have conversations with a lot of guys you’re not able to during the year. So I know my dad gets really excited, as well, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Doolittle gets his second All-Star invite. He has a 3-1 record and leads the Nationals with 22 saves and a 1.45 ERA. Martinez said Doolittle’s preparation is one big reason why he is so successful closing out games.
“He’s been good,” Martinez said. “His routine is really good every day. He gets in there with the trainers and he’s got an unbelievable routine before each game. And then he goes out and throws. He tells me when he’s available and when he’s not.”
Doolittle has an incredible fastball, which he can locate and move around the zone. Known primarily as a two-pitch hurler, Martinez said Doolittle has added a third pitch to mix things up. Martinez said Doolittle racks up saves because he has laser focus on the mound to get outs from his first pitch on in the ninth inning.
“His ability to just attack hitters,” Martinez said. “Really, he just goes after you. And he knows how to pitch. Now he has three pitches that he feels comfortable throwing. But mainly he is a fastball pitcher, and he knows that, so he attacks the hitters.”
Doolittle says this second invite to the Midsummer Classic is special because he has really had only been with his new team for a little over 11 months, and this time he will be representing the National League.
“It means a lot. Getting selected to the All-Star Game is really a special honor,” Doolittle said. “It’s really difficult to do and for me, I think of where I was a year ago at this time. I hadn’t even been traded over here yet. I wasn’t even the closer on that team and now I get to represent this team and this city in front of these fans in the All-Star Game. It’s incredible. It really hasn’t sunk in yet to be honest.”
The All-Star Game is also a showcase for the city, and will be an opportunity to show off how the Navy Yard neighborhood has grown since Nationals Park opened in 2008.
“Yeah, as a fan of baseball, and I think our fans, as well, I think D.C. is a great town to have it in,” Harper said. “You’ve got a lot of great areas around here, if that’s right next to the stadium, or by the wharf or right over the bridge, as well. Lot of good places to eat, lot of good places to relax and lot of good places to go and see really cool things. We’re right down the street from the monuments, down the street from the White House.
“Just an amazing place to have a game and I think the fans coming in and around should be super excited to really enjoy this next week and take advantage of everything, not just the baseball game, but D.C. as a whole. It’s a great city, it’s a lot of fun and looking forward to seeing everybody have some fun.”