Unfortunately, Sean Doolittle will miss out on his opportunity to try for a save in the All-Star Game in Nationals Park, but both Max Scherzer, who’s starting the game for the National League, and Bryce Harper, who’s playing center and batting sixth for the NL squad, will be in there in the 89th annual Midsummer Classic.
Scherzer told reporters after National League manager Dave Roberts announced him as the starter on Monday that he was looking forward to the experience of pitching in the All-Star Game in his home park.
“In previous experiences of being in the All-Star Games,” Scherzer said, “you know, seeing the hometown players and how the fans get behind the hometown players, it’s always been a special moment just watching that from afar and being on the other side.
“So I can only imagine what it’s going to be like to have the Nats fans here supporting all of us, Bryce and Doolittle, as well. It’s just an honor to be able to have that recognition and go out there and start this thing again, because this is just a dream come true.”
Harper talked last night, after winning the Home Run Derby, about his first-half, the fact that his average isn’t where he wants it to be this season, and the fact that, in spite of the team’s struggles, they’re not out of it yet.
“I mean, I’ve hit some pretty good homers this year,” Harper said, “... so going out there and hitting homers, you know, is a lot of fun. I think as a team, I think you know, we can do a lot better as a group, as a whole. And personally, of course, I want to be hitting .300 and driving in runs and stuff like that.
“I feel like whatever I’ve got at the break, I’m fortunate to be there, and I think as a team we need to keep going and keep grinding. [5.5 games] out at the break, we’re fortunate to be there.”
Doolittle, who was selected to the NL roster for his second appearance in the All-Star Game, suffered a “foot” injury that landed him on the DL, and he said during the recent series in Citi Field that he was disappointed he’ll have to miss out on potentially pitching in the All-Star Game.
“It’s a bummer, for sure,” the Nationals’ closer said, “... but as I look back on my first All-Star experience, the actual game isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. I think my memories of that experience are being around the other guys that were selected to the team, being in that locker room and kind of sharing that space with some of those guys and being on the field for the Derby.
“It would have been really special to have a chance to pitch and to maybe close a game out in front of the hometown fans in the home park.”
Doolittle will be able to soak in the cheers along with his teammates, then he’ll watch as Scherzer and Harper participate in the game.
Scherzer said he was also looking forward to going up against Chris Sale, the starter for the American League.
“To me, Chris is a complete -- the complete pitcher,” he said. “A guy who can go out there pitch multiple pitches, attack the strike zone, has the fastball and demeanor and intensity out there to compete with anybody.
“He’s going to give you everything he’s got, whether it means 120 pitches, and honestly, for me, when I get to face him, it brings the best out of me. I love competing against him. He’s one of the best in the game, if not the best, and he’s so much fun to watch.”
Asked about the intensity of pitching in an All-Star game vs a regular season game, Scherzer, who’s always intense, said there’s no comparison.
“It’s not even close. Honestly, it’s probably the closest thing you get to the postseason in terms of like the atmosphere and the intensity and everything. A lot of times, I’ve always looked at pitching in the All-Star Game as a prelude to how you pitch in the postseason.
“Sometimes how you might have to pitch on two days’ rest out of the pen, only throw one inning and then you have to go face the best hitters. That’s what you do in the All-Star Game.
“I’ve always loved pitching in these events. You can take something from it because you can use it later in the year.”
It doesn’t “count” anymore, but it matters. Not as much as regular season games, of course, but it should be fun. Enjoy the All-Star Game.