Harper is All-Star starter; Murphy, Ramos, Strasburg are reserves

The Nationals had been a first-place club on All-Star selection day three times in the last four years, but that didn’t always translate into a throng of players actually donning curly W caps at the Midsummer Classic.

This year, when the All-Stars gather in San Diego, the Nats will be well-represented in accordance with their place in the standings.

The Nationals had four players selected to the All-Star squad this evening, with Bryce Harper again voted by fans as a starting outfielder. Daniel Murphy missed a starting spot by a mere 88 votes, but still made the team as a reserve, along with Wilson Ramos and Stephen Strasburg.

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This matches the club record for players selected to a single All-Star Game, but there’s a good chance they’ll end up setting the record for players who actually attend the event. Though the Nationals officially had four All-Stars in 2012, Ian Desmond was forced to stay home with a strained oblique muscle while Harper, Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez made the trip to Kansas City.

“You’re chosen individually,” manager Dusty Baker said earlier this afternoon, before the roster announcement. “But it’s a team component when you’re standing on that sideline out there representing your team, your teammates and your organization.”

Harper has become a regular at this event, selected for the fourth time in five years, the third time as a starter voted in by fans. Since making his much-ballyhooed major league debut, the 23-year-old slugger has been left out of the All-Star Game only in 2014 when he missed May and June with a torn ligament in his thumb.

Harper’s selection likely was based more on track record and popularity than pure numbers. Though he followed up his MVP season with a dominant April that earned him NL Player of the Month honors, he’s hitting just .247 with eight homers and 24 RBIs since then. Overall, Harper is batting .258 with 17 homers, 48 RBIs, a .404 on-base percentage and .894 OPS.

Harper will be joined in the starting NL outfield by the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler and the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes.

Murphy and Ramos each had stronger cases to be named starters at their respective positions, but each came up short in fan voting and had to settle for selections as backups.

Murphy leads the league with a .347 batting average and 108 hits while already matching his career-high with 14 homers and driving in a team-best 56 runs. Despite a furious late charge, he wound up with 3,013,319 votes, barely behind the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist, who got 3,013,407 votes.

This is Murphy’s second All-Star selection. He was picked in 2014 to represent the Mets; at the time he was hitting .294 with seven homers, 37 RBIs and a .755 OPS. Signed to a modest three-year, $37.5 million contract over the winter after the Nationals failed to land several other second basemen they were pursuing, the 31-year-old has proven far more valuable to the club.

Ramos, meanwhile, earns the first All-Star selection of his career, a suitable reward for a breakthrough season to date that has seen the 28-year-old catcher hit .340 with 13 homers, 46 RBIs and a .958 OPS. A .258 hitter who battled a number of serious injuries during the first five seasons of his career, Ramos has blossomed into a complete catcher this year, just as he’s approaching free agency.

Ramos (who finished a distant third in voting) will join fellow catcher Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers in San Diego as a backup to starter Buster Posey of the Giants.

Strasburg will be making his second All-Star appearance, and he’ll be doing so in his hometown, pitching as well as he ever has in an already notable career. Previously a selection in 2012, the right-hander has put it all together this season, going 11-0 with a 2.71 ERA and a 123-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 starts.

There was briefly some concern Strasburg might not be healthy enough to make the team after an upper back strain landed him on the disabled list. But the 27-year-old returned in peak form over the weekend, tossing 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball against the Reds before he was pulled with his pitch count already at 109.

Strasburg joins a star-studded NL pitching staff that also features starters Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, Jose Fernandez, Johnny Cueto, Jon Lester and Julio Teheran, plus relievers Jeurys Familia, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, A.J. Ramos and Fernando Rodney.

The starting lineup, as voted by fans, includes all four Cubs infielders (Anthony Rizzo, Zobrist, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant) in addition to outfielders Harper, Cespedes and Fowler and Posey behind the plate.

Along with Murphy, other backup position players will be infielders Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Wil Myers, Corey Seager and Matt Carpenter and outfielders Adam Duvall, Carlos Gonzalez, Odubel Herrera and Marcell Ozuna.

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