Judge returns to Classic as a face of the game

Aaron Judge arguably became the main attraction at last year’s All-Star Game, in the midst of a phenomenal rookie season that saw him pacing the Majors with 30 home runs at the time. The young standout capped a frenzied visit to Miami by hoisting the trophy after the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, then heard Commissioner Rob Manfred laud him as someone “who can become the face of the game.”

Rangers Outright Carlos Perez

The Rangers announced Monday that they’ve activated catcher Carlos Perez from the 10-day disabled list and sent him outright to Triple-A Round Rock. In doing so, they’re creating a roster spot that’ll go to lefty Joe Palumbo who has been activated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Class-A Advanced Down East. Palumbo had been recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Perez, 27, was claimed off waivers from the Braves back in early May and appeared in 16 games with Texas before landing on the disabled list. In that time, he posted a lowly .167/.205/.286 slash with a homer and a pair of doubles in 46 plate appearances. He’s never been much of a threat with the bat in the big leagues, hitting a combined .218/.260/.322 in 663 PAs between the Angels, Braves and Rangers.

Of course, Perez’s calling card is his glovework behind the dish. He’s successfully halted 39 percent of stolen-base attempts against him at the big league level and has drawn generally positive marks for both his pitch-framing and pitch-blocking skills, per Baseball Prospectus.

Jacob deGrom says his future ‘is kind of in the Mets’ control’

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“I would love to play here for my whole career,” deGrom said. “It’s just deciding what we see as the future.”

Jacob deGrom is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and has two years after this one before qualifying for free agency. Stuck on an awful Mets team, deGrom would probably be the hottest commodity on the trade market should New York decide to deal him.

deGrom and his agent on Monday made clear that the ball is currently in the Mets’ court.

The 30-year-old right-hander has a major league-best 1.69 ERA this season in 19 starts, yet is just 5-4 thanks to a Mets team in freefall mode. deGrom has seven starts this season with at least seven innings while allowing zero or one run and no win.

New York, after starting the season 11-1, heads into the All-Star break at 39-55, the second-word record in the National League.

“We’ve been open to discussing long term deals with the Mets. There have been no numbers discussed,” deGrom said during his All-Star media session on Monday in Washigton D.C., as shown on MLB Network. “I have enjoyed my time here. In 2015 when we went to the World Series and we were a winning baseball team that was a lot of fun, and that’s what I want to get back to. I’d love to be here with the Mets.”

deGrom is making $7.4 million this season and has two more seasons of salary arbitration eligibility before qualifying for free agency after the 2020 season. His agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA clarified the earlier statement.

While not a demand, the timing of Van Wagenen’s comments — on the first day of All-Star festivities, when baseball has the national stage — are awfully convenient. As of Saturday the Mets seemed unwilling to deal either deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Monday’s comments at the very least provides the Mets a face-saving reason to trade their ace should they decide to change course. The Mets lost 92 games in 2017 and are on pace for 95 losses in 2018.

“I don’t think anybody has had fun losing baseball games,” deGrom said. “I would love to play here for my whole career. It’s just deciding what we see as the future. It’s something that is kind of in the Mets’ control.”

How to watch the Home Run Derby

Competition starts at 8 p.m. ET on Monday night

The Home Run Derby takes center stage on Monday night from Nationals Park in Washington D.C., and there are several ways to watch the annual quest to mash taters.

Online streaming for the event, which starts at 8 p.m. ET, is available through Watch ESPN and MLB.com, and the Home Run Derby will be televised by four different ESPN networks.

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is the de facto host of this event, and since this is his second derby the 25-year-old is the dean of this year’s field. The other seven participants are in their first Home Run Derby. Three players in the field — Rhys Hoskins, Max Muncy and Kyle Schwarber — didn’t make the All-Star team, and another three — Jesus Aguilar, Javier Baez and Alex Bregman — are making their first All-Star appearance.

The main television coverage is on ESPN, with Karl Ravech and Mark Teixeira are on the call, along with analyst Jessica Mendoza and reporter Buster Olney roaming the field during the contest.

ESPNews will have an enhanced broadcast with data provided by Statcast, so you can fill your heart’s content with exit velocity, launch angle and all the distance you can handle. Jason Benetti and Eduardo Perez are on the call for that broadcast.

ESPN2 will simulcast the ESPN Deportes call of the Home Run Derby in Spanish, with Ernesto Jerez, Luis Alfredo Álvarez and Guillermo Celis describing the action.

The players were seeded based on their home run totals through Tuesday, July 10, with Brewers first baseman Aguilar earning the top seed. The bracket consists of three single-elimination rounds of four minutes each.

Goldschmidt is the DH starter for the NL All-Stars

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona slugger will bat third for the NL

The National League on Monday announced its starting lineup for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, with Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt inserted as the designated hitter.

Goldschmidt was selected to the All-Star roster by commissioner selection, one of three first basemen for the National League. He is batting .281/.386/.534 with 21 home runs this season, which is remarkable considering he was jitting just .209/.326/.393 at the end of May. Goldschmidt has 14 home runs in his last 41 games.

“Goldy is a consummate professional. In the batters box he’s very dangerous,” said NL manager Dave Roberts, who faces Goldschmidt 19 times a year while managing the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Having a right-handed bat in the lineup against Chris Sale increases our chances a little bit. I just love what he does.”

While not quite as stacked as the American League lineup, the National League starting nine is solid from top to bottom. The lowest wRC+ in the NL lineup is 119 by Bryce Harper of the host Washington Nationals. It has been a struggle of late for Harper, hitting just .214 on the season, though with a .365 on-base percentage and .468 slugging percentage.

Harper, who ranks second in the NL with 23 home runs, starts in center field and bats sixth on Tuesday night.

There are three first-time All-Stars in the National League lineup, with 25-year-old Javier Baez and 26-year-old Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs batting and the top and bottom of the lineup, respectively. Nick Markakis of the Braves, hitting .323/.389/.488 at age 34, made his first All-Star team in his 13th major league season, and bats seventh in right field for the NL.

Matt Kemp is the redemption story in the National League lineup, making his first midsummer classic since 2012. Back with the Dodgers after three subpar years away, Kemp is hitting .310/.352/.522 with 15 home runs in a season that has people talking about his performance rather than the money remaining on his contract. He bats fifth and plays left field for the NL.

The AL All-Star lineup is absolutely stacked

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Lineups were announced on Monday for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, and the American League starting nine looks awfully imposing.

Mike Trout will bat third and play center field for the AL on Tuesday night, after being named an All-Star for the seventh time in his seven full seasons. He was injured last year but in All-Star play Trout has at least one hit in all five of his previous games, going 6-for-13 (.462) with two doubles, a home run, a triple and two walks, capturing game MVP honors in 2014 and 2015.

Mookie Betts is leading off and playing right field for the American League after a stunning first half that saw him hit .359/.448/.691 with 23 home runs and 18 stolen bases for the Boston Red Sox. He and Trout have been the two best hitters in baseball this season, and they are joined in the AL lineup by the two major league home run hitters, with Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez and Boston designated hitter J.D. Martinez each at 29 home runs.

Ramirez had a breakout season in 2017 and finished third in MVP voting. He has already matched last year’s home run total and rather amazingly also has 20 stolen bases, just two shy of the American League lead. Chuck Klein in 1932 is the only major league player in the live ball era (1920-present) to lead his league in both home runs and steals in the same season.

Including Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado — as trade rumors swirl around him — and New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, the American League starting lineup has six of the top nine hitters in baseball as measured by wRC+.

In between Betts and Trout is Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the reigning AL MVP who is hitting .332/.394/.470 with 23 doubles and 14 steals.

The one change in the starting lineup from the fans’ vote is at catcher, with Tampa Bay Rays catcher out with a hamstring injury. Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who was elected to the All-Star roster by the players, will start in Ramos’s place, the fifth consecutive All-Star start for Perez, who at .221/.259/.394 is the only light hitter in the American League lineup.

Max Scherzer & Chris Sale will start the All-Star Game, again

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

First time since 1939-40 the midsummer classic has the same starters in back-to-back years.

Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer will start the 2018 MLB All-Star Game in his own park, and will face off on the mound against Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale on Tuesday night, the first time in 78 years the midsummer classic had the same starting pitchers in back-to-back seasons.

The starting pitchers were announced on Monday in Washington D.C., alongside National League manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and American League manager A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros. Sale (188) and Scherzer (182) are the top two strikeout pitchers in the major leagues this season.

Scherzer has a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts with the Nationals, leading the NL with 134⅔ innings. This is his his third All-Star Game start. In addition to 2017, the right-hander also started in 2013 for the American League as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

“There are so many emotions when you know you’re pitching in your home park, Scherzer said. “In my previous experiences of being in the All-Star Game, seeing how the fans get behind hometown players it’s always been a special moment watching that from afar and being on the other side. I can only imagine what it will be like having the Nats fans here supporting all of us.

“This is a dream come true.”

This marks the first time the All-Star Game has had the same starting pitchers in consecutive seasons since Red Ruffing of the New York Yankees and Paul Derringer of the Cincinnati Reds faced off in the 1939 and 1940 games.

Sale is 10-4 with a 2.23 ERA for a Red Sox team that enters the break with the best record in the majors at 68-30. This is his third consecutive All-Star start, just the third pitcher even to do that, joining Lefty Gomez (1933-35) and Robin Roberts (1953-55).

“He is truly a special pitcher in out league. He is truly someone who deserves this honor,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, managing the American League All-Stars.

The All-Star Game will be played at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and will be televised by Fox, with Joe Buck and John Smoltz on the call and dugout reports from Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci. Online streaming is available through Fox Sports Go.

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