For the 25-year-old Harper, the only National voted to start by fans, it is his sixth all-star selection and will be his fifth start, setting a franchise record.
“I think every year you come in and try to have a good first half as a team and do things you can to help your team win,” Harper said. “There are two guys beside me who have done a great job of that, and I think we’re excited to do it here in D.C. I’m very excited to go represent the Nationals in D.C. and looking forward to this week to hopefully get one of our other teammates in there as well.”
Trea Turner could join the trio for the July 17 game. The Nationals shortstop is one of the candidates in the “Final Vote” contest, in which fans vote an additional player onto each team. Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers, Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants, Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals and Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers are the other National League candidates. Turner is batting .278 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and a .774 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 89 games. He leads all NL shortstops in FanGraphs WAR.
Left off the lists Sunday, however, were Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. A year after not winning the “Final Vote,” Rendon fell short again after batting .280 with 12 home runs and an .858 OPS in 68 games. Unless he joins the team as an injury replacement, the Nationals third baseman will continue as one of baseball’s most accomplished players without an all-star nod.
Soto, meanwhile, hasn’t been snubbed before because he’s new to this. The 19-year-old rookie burst onto the scene in late May, belting a home run in his first plate appearance of his first major league start, and has been the Nationals’ best hitter ever since. After beginning the season with low-Class A Hagerstown, Soto is batting .302 with eight home runs and a .956 OPS. But he has only played in 44 games, perhaps not enough for some decision-makers to believe he warrants an all-star nod.
Harper’s selection to the game, on the other hand, was never in doubt. A long slump marred Harper’s first half, sinking his batting average to an unprecedented low. But he still has led the NL in home runs for most of the season, and his popularity allowed him to remain in the top three in the fan voting among NL outfielders from start to finish. Harper ended up in third place among NL outfielders a year after being the league’s top vote-getter across all positions. His 2,335,733 votes put him behind the Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis (3,556,469) and the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp (2,930,353) at his position.
Harper, whose 21 home runs ranked second in the NL entering Sunday, will also participate in the Home Run Derby for the second time in his career. And while he has compiled 91 strikeouts and his .218 batting average is among the lowest among qualified batters, he leads the NL with 76 walks and has maintained an .846 OPS while splitting time between right and center field defensively.
“I’m looking forward to just having the family around at the All-Star Game,” Harper said. “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.”
Scherzer, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, was named an all-star for the sixth straight season — his fourth as a National. The right-hander leads the majors in innings pitched (127 2/3) and strikeouts (177), while his 11 wins, 0.893 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and FanGraphs WAR are tops in the NL. The résumé leaves him as the overwhelming favorite to start the game in his home ballpark.
“Whenever I get to pitch, it’s going to be awesome,” Scherzer 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 years 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.”
Doolittle is an all-star for the first time since his only appearance in 2014 with the Oakland Athletics. The bespectacled left-hander broke spring training as the undisputed closer for the first time in his career and has thrived in the role. Doolittle, 31, has posted a 1.45 ERA and 0.536 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings across 35 appearances. He has compiled 49 strikeouts to three walks and three hit batters. His 22 saves rank fourth in the NL.
“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.”
Three former Nationals will also return to their old home park as all-stars. Wilson Ramos, now with the Tampa Bay Rays, was voted the starting catcher for the American League. Reliever Blake Treinin, in his first full season with the Athletics, was also named to the AL team, and Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez (formerly Felipe Rivero) is on the NL squad.
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