One year after sending six players to the 2017 MLB All-Star Game, the Houston Astros will again have a heavy presence at the Midsummer Classic, after the announcement Sunday evening that five Astros have been selected to the 2018 All-Star Game, which will be played next Tuesday night at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. This is the third time the Astros have sent five or more All-Stars to the game (2017, 1994), and the Astros' five All-Stars this year are tied for first among all AL clubs with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.
Leading the charge, not surprisingly, will be the reigning American League MVP, second baseman Jose Altuve, who was the leading vote getter among all players with 4,849,630 votes. This will be Altuve's sixth trip to the All-Star game and his fourth straight start. He continues to be the most consistent hit machine in Major League Baseball, with a .339/.406/.482 slash this season.
Altuve was the only Astro selected by fan balloting to start the game, but four more were selected through the reserve selection process, which combines player voting and the Office of the Commissioner. We will begin with starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, whose selections feel like a de facto tribute to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, the architect of the bold moves that brought both hurlers to Houston inside the last twelve months.
At last year's All-Star break, Velrander was a Detroit Tiger and Cole was a Pittsburgh Pirate. Obviously, we know now how the Velrander saga ended in 2017, with his being an indispensable piece to a World Series championship. Cole, acquired before the 2018 season for prospects, appears to be headed toward a similar story this season. Verlander has had an ERA below 2.00 for most of the season, with a few shaky starts of late raising it to 2.15, with a record of 9-4. He is set to start next Sunday, so he will not pitch in the All-Star game. Cole, meanwhile, also had a white hot start to the season, and sits today at 9-2 with a 2.70 ERA.
Outfielder George Springer will be making his second consecutive All-Star appearance, in part, I presume, on the strength of his World Series MVP performance last fall. This season, Springer's power numbers are solid (15 home runs, 43 RBI), but he's been in a hideous hitting slump of late, that has seen his slash line plummet to .248/.333/.425.
Finally, after taking home American League Player of the Month honors for June, third baseman Alex Bregman makes his first appearance in an All-Star Game. Like Springer, Bregman was the author of some World Series heroics last fall, and it has carried into this season, in which Bregman has compiled a .284/.385/.523 slash, with 17 home runs and 29 doubles.
Perhaps just as intriguing as the Astros who were selected to the game are those who weren't. Charlie Morton, another World Series hero, has won 11 games with a 2.83 ERA. Lance McCullers, an All-Star in 2017, has won 10 games. In the bullpen, Chris Devenski, another 2017 selection, has numbers that are actually better this season than they were this time last year. Also, there's been a groundswell for Collin McHugh, who has an ERA under 1.00, although it's been in largely low-leverage situations. None of them were selected.
On the everyday player side, Carlos Correa, a 2017 selection, was likely done in by a combination of injuries and a crowded group of elite shortstops. Correa has been decent this season, but not good enough to warrant selection over Manny Machado or Francisco Lindor. Evan Gattis, meanwhile, is actually the Astros' leader in power numbers (18 home runs, 62 RBI) and tied for second in the American League in runs batted in.
A.J. Hinch will be managing the American League team, and he is hopeful that another Astro or two could find their way to the game. Courtesy of Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
"I'm very proud of these guys, and I'm also proud of the number of guys who hopefully we can squeeze in if they need any sort of replacements," said Hinch, who earned the right to manage the AL by reaching the World Series last year. "To have this many guys on the team is great. I thanked them earlier today for what we did as a team last year to allow me and the coaching staff to go, but I can't say enough about the quality of this group that's going and some of the guys that have had All-Star-caliber first halves that didn't make it. The list could have gone even deeper."
The MLB All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX next Tuesday night, July 17.
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