As inevitable as it has felt at times during the past three months, Max Scherzer starting the 2018 All-Star Game in his home stadium was not a given. So many things had to go right for the reigning Cy Young Award winner to start this game again, with geography, sentimentality and personality aligning just so. But as he has so often in his Nationals tenure, Scherzer made it all look easy.
He leads the National League in innings, strikeouts, WHIP and batting average against. He is striking out more batters per nine innings than anyone else in the NL, even as his pace slowed considerably in his past few starts. On Monday, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts named him the NL’s starting pitcher for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, his second straight start and the third of his career. He will face Red Sox ace Chris Sale, the American League’s starting pitcher, for the second straight season, too.
“It’s [Max’s] city. It’s his ballpark,” Roberts said. “To give the ball to Max, it’s an honor for me to watch him do his thing.”
Scherzer had a feeling the opportunity was coming but didn’t want to talk about it until everything was official. Nobody enjoys this opportunity quite like Scherzer, for whom nothing is more appealing than facing the most formidable lineup possible, no matter the setting.
“When Dave told me he was going to give me the nod, so many emotions when you know you’re pitching in your home park,” Scherzer said. “This is such an honor for the game to be here. . . . I can only imagine what it’s going to be like to have the Nats fans here supporting all of us.”
Scherzer desperately wants an at-bat in the All-Star Game, but that will not happen: The teams will use designated hitters Tuesday night. Scherzer will not get a chance to face Sale. Among pitchers with at least 30 plate appearances, Scherzer owns the fourth-best average in the majors (.256). If he were to get that at-bat, it would come against the man who leads Major League Baseball in strikeouts. Sale is the only one who has been able to out-whiff Scherzer this year.
He also likes to let loose during these games. In 2016, Scherzer was overjoyed to learn that the Petco Park radar gun clocked one of his pitches at 100 mph and still shakes his head when reminded the gun was juiced. He has pitched in four All-Star Games and has yet to allow a run. If he pitches just one inning Tuesday, Scherzer is guaranteed to face Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, reigning MVP Jose Altuve of the Astros and Angels star Mike Trout.
“He’s going to be amped up for his hometown crowd,” Trout said. “It’s always a battle when you face the best.”
Should he be allowed to continue past the first inning — and the only indication Roberts gave of his plan was that the Mets’ Jacob deGrom would follow Scherzer — the right-hander will work against an AL lineup so loaded that Orioles shortstop Manny Machado will hit seventh. Bryce Harper will hit sixth for the National League and will start in center field as he makes his fifth All-Star Game start. He will play center field, flanked by the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp in left and the Braves’ Nick Markakis in right.
Scherzer will be the first pitcher to start consecutive All-Star Games for the NL since Randy Johnson in 2000 and 2001. He’s the first to start in his home park since the Mets’ Matt Harvey in 2013 and the 12th overall.
AMERICAN LEAGUE LINEUP
Mookie Betts RF
Jose Altuve 2B
Mike Trout CF
J.D. Martinez DH
Jose Ramirez 3B
Aaron Judge LF
Manny Machado SS
Jose Abreu 1B
Salvador Perez C
NATIONAL LEAGUE LINEUP
Javy Baez 2B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Paul Goldschmidt DH
Freddie Freeman 1B
Matt Kemp LF
Bryce Harper CF
Nick Markakis RF
Brandon Crawford SS
Willson Contreras C
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