Monday’s Home Run Derby saw Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper take home the trophy in front of his home town fans.
But now, with that out of the way, Harper and the rest of his National League teammates, who have lost the last five in a row, will look to get back to the winning way of things as they take on the American League in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game today (8pm ET Tuesday).
Starting Pitchers: (NL-WAS) Max Scherzer vs (AL-BOS) Chris Sale
It will be another Nationals player that will be taking the mound for the National League, which will be the road team this year. The 33-year-old righty, Max Scherzer, is on the fast track to winning his league’s Cy Young. He is first in the NL in wins (12), innings pitched (134.2), strikeouts (182) and WHIP (0.90). Scherzer also ranks in the top-five in ERA (3rd; 2.41) and winning percentage (5th; .706). If Scherzer is to win the award, it will be his third Cy Young since 2013. Not bad for a guy who has been in the league for just 10 years.
Opposing him will be one of three starters from MLB’s best team, the Boston Red Sox, 29-year-old Chris Sale. A Cy Young candidate in his own right, Sale leads the AL in strikeouts (188) and ERA (2.23). Even more impressively, his ERA is the 2nd best in baseball, just behind Jacob DeGrom of the New York Mets who has a ridiculously low 1.68 mark. Sale is eighth in the AL in wins (10) and second in WHIP as well (0.90).
For Sale, this is his third time starting in the All Star Game in a row, which is quite a feat given the talent the AL has to send to the mound. Sale has been an all-star every year since 2012, pitching a total of seven innings, yielding seven runs, two earned runs and one home run. Impressively, he has struck out seven, exactly one per inning, while walking none. He picked up the win in 2013.
Scherzer also started last year’s All-Star game, making it a rare occasion where the same two pitchers will be opposing each other two years in a row. This was the second of his two career starts, the first of which came in his first All-Star game in 2013. Scherzer has pitched four scoreless innings in his all-star career, yielding just two hits, walking none and striking out six. He also has an all-star win, which he picked up in 2014.
This is a great pitching duel and while these two will only get one or two innings of mound time, it will be well worth it. Like most all-star games however, it will be the rest of the pitching staff on both squads who make the biggest difference, just like Scherzer and Sale did when they picked up their wins in 2014 and 2013 respectively.
MLB All-Star Game by the Numbers
- Power: When it comes to home run hitting, the American League certainly has an advantage when it comes to their roster. They will have JD Martinez and Jose Ramirez batting clean-up and in the fifth spot, a line up nightmare for even the best pitchers. Martinez and Ramirez lead MLB with 29 home runs apiece. The AL will also have MLB’s third, fourth and fifth home run hitters in their lineup as well. In fact, six of the team’s starters enter the game with 20+ home runs from the regular season. That is not to say the NL lacks power entirely. They have three players with over 20 home runs including Bryce Harper, who is second in the league in home runs with 23, and who is just coming off winning the derby. Harper’s swing looked as good as it has all season and with a history of players stepping it up in front of their home crowd, he should have a strong game for the NL.
- Average: This one is a little bit closer but once again the edge, at least on paper, goes to the AL. The AL has the top three hitters in terms of contact in Mookie Betts (.359), Jose Altuve (.332) and JD Martinez (.328) compared to just one in the top-five for the NL in Nick Markakis. That is just among the starters however. When it comes to the reserves, the rosters do even out a bit more. Both teams boast strong rosters as naturally, this is an all-star contest.
- Pitching: Outside of our starters, the AL is sending five of the league’s top 10 starting pitchers in terms of ERA. All of them have ERAs under 2.60. With a DH meaning AL pitchers have to face a lineup of nine hitters instead of the eight plus the pitcher the NL faces, the AL typically has higher ERAs. That is not the case however, among this great group of all-stars. As far as relief pitchers, the story is much the same as top closers from rival teams Aroldis Chapman (NYY) and Craig Kimbrel (BOS) among others, will share the bullpen tonight. Edwin Diaz is also on the AL squad and he leads the MLB in saves (36).
Scherzer got the nod to start in his home ballpark but he is not the best pitcher on the NL roster. That honor belongs to Jacob DeGrom, who is first in the NL in ERA (1.68) and second in both strikeouts (149) and WHIP (0.97). His win/loss record leaves much to be desired but that is more a testament to the struggles the New York Mets have had and not DeGrom himself. The AL will likely have to deal with him taking the mound right after Scherzer, which is not a formula for a lot of hits and run scoring. It doesn’t get much better after that either as the NL also has Aaron Nola, Jon Lester and Mike Foltynewicz in their starting rotation, all of whom have ERAs under 2.70. Their bullpen is strong as well with both Wade Davis and Kenley Jansen having 27 saves apiece.
Our Preview’s MLB All-Star Game Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
Harper and Scherzer will be playing in their home ballpark even if they will be the road team given the MLB’s rules have changed regarding hosting the game. Given any park can host any year, the NL will be the road team this year, despite playing at Nationals Park.
That shouldn’t matter all that much however though as the crowd will no doubt be pro NL and pro-Harper/Scherzer. Overall, the AL is the slightly better team on paper and these all-star games have a habit of teams on prolonged winning streaks. The AL should get their sixth win in a row here and they are favored by 1.5 to do just that.
So, coming to the part where we advise how to beat the US bookies, our All-Star game predictions and betting picks are: