MIAMI (AP) — In a year when it seems just about everyone is a power hitter, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer know what awaits in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.
The American League’s starting batting order has combined for 181 home runs, led by New York Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge with 30. The National League’s lineup has 158, topped by 26 from hometown star Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins.
That’s a whole lot of long balls.
“I’m gonna grip and rip as usual,” Sale said Monday when AL manager Brad Mills announced the Boston ace will become the first pitcher to make consecutive All-Star starts representing different teams.
“I give up my fair share of homers. You can check the book. It happens,” Sale said. “If you let that creep in your mind, it’s going to be a long night.”
Sale has given up 11 homers after allowing a career-high 27 last year. Scherzer, who opens for the National League, tied for the NL high by giving up 31 homers last season and has allowed 13 this year.
There have been 3,343 home runs in 1,327 games this season, a rate that would leave this season’s total at 6,122 — on track to break the record of 5,693 hit in 2000 during the height of the Steroids Era.
“I’ve given up a lot of homers over the past year-and-a-half. That’s really been something that’s been a thorn in my side,” Scherzer said. “I’ve had to become a better pitcher, locate better. Because of the home-run spike, I’ve dialed it in even more to try to make my location better to try to prevent them.”
Then with the Chicago White Sox, Sale pitched the first inning of last year’s game at San Diego and allowed a two-out home run to Kris Bryant. Sale was traded in December for top prospects.
Sale will be the 16th pitcher to make consecutive All-Star starts, the first since Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2000-01 and the first in the AL since Toronto’s Dave Stieb in 1983-84. Born in Lakeland, about 240 miles northwest of Miami, the 28-year-old left-hander is 11-4 with a 2.75 ERA and a major league-leading 178 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings.
“All my family lives here. Brothers, sisters, in-laws, parents, even my aunts and uncles and cousins,” Sale said. “So to be able to be here not too far from where I live now is nice. I can have my family, extended family come down and experience this with me.”
“At the end of the day this is something I’ll never forget,” he said. “This is something I’ll be hopefully sitting in a rocking chair when I’m 80 years old telling my grandkids and great-grandkids and things like that.”
Scherzer, a 32-year-old right-hander who heads Washington’s rotation, also will be making his second All-Star start. Then with Detroit, he pitched a perfect inning at New York’s Citi Field in 2013, when Sale followed with a pair of 1-2-3 innings and got the win. Scherzer will be the fifth pitcher to start All-Star Games for both leagues, following Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Johnson. Scherzer is 10-5 with a 2.10 ERA and 173 strikeouts.
Sale and Scherzer took turns complimenting each other at Monday’s announcement of the All-Star lineups.
“I love the way Chris goes out and competes. … He’ll do anything to win. He makes big-time pitches all the way — even if he takes 120 pitches. By far he’s been one of my favorite players, pitchers to watch. It’s even better to compete against him,” Scherzer said.
Sale echoed that sentiment.
“I could almost say the same thing. I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy compete as hard as he competes day in and day out,” Sale said. “The fire, the intensity, the role model he can be for kids coming up to kind of take the bull by the horns and just compete. It’s fun.”
Sale and Scherzer have a common thread: both played for the La Crosse Loggers in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer circuit. Scherzer was there in 2004 and Sale in 2008.
“So that’s pretty interesting, too. We’ve had some ties for a while and played against each other for a while, too,” Sale said.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA, is ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game because he started Sunday.
“I had already chosen Max, based on what I had just read numerically,” NL manager Joe Maddon said,
Maddon’s batting order has Colorado center fielder Charlie Blackmon leading off, followed by Stanton as the designated hitter. Washington right fielder Bryce Harper is third, followed by San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy, Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Miami left fielder Marcell Ozuna and Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart.
Maddon said it was a “pretty easy decision” to slot Stanton as the DH.
“Looking at the breakdown of the team positionally, I thought to draw a DH out of the outfield was smart, or possibly a first baseman, having three outstanding first baseman,” Maddon said. “And furthermore playing here under the circumstances I thought it was the right thing to do.”
AL manager Brad Mills hits Houston second baseman Jose Altuve leadoff, followed by Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez, Judge in right, Houston’s George Springer in left, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak, Tampa Bay designated hitter Corey Dickerson, Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez and Boston’s Mookie Betts in center.
Judge tops the majors with 30 home runs and is among the leaders in several other hitting categories. Mills said he wanted to see the rookie bat early — and figured a lot of fans did, too.
“Where was I going to hit him in the lineup? It was a situation you wanted him to hit in the first inning because of the story he’s been all year long,” Mills said.
Cleveland’s bench coach, Mills took over as AL manager after Indians manager Terry Francona had a procedure last week to correct an irregular heartbeat.
“Getting this responsibility is very humbling,” Mills said. “I’m thrilled to be here. I definitely would love to have him sitting here in this chair.”