MLB All-Star Game Preview

The Senior Circuit is primed to breakthrough with its power pitching staff and end the Junior Circuit’s dominance in the Midsummer Classic.

National League at American League

It’s been well-documented that the National League has failed to capture a victory in the Midsummer Classic since 1996, even though the last four contests have been decided by a single run.  Ever since the game was changed to hand the victor home-field advantage in the World Series, the National League has failed to deliver as well.  “The priority is to win the ballgame,” Philadelphia Phillies and National League manager Charlie Manuel said.  “That’s why we are here.”  All the talk about the Senior Circuit is centered on the pitching staff, with Florida starter Josh Johnson, Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay and San Francisco’s two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum set to come out of the pen.

National League starter Ubaldo Jimenez is a sparkling 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 18 starts this season and produced a bounce back performance last time out.  He picked up a 4-2 home victory over the St. Louis Cardinals by allowing just a single run and three hits over eight innings.  In his three prior starts, the hard-throwing right-hander surrendered 17 runs and 19 hits in 17.2 innings of work.  Jimenez will be the first Colorado Rockies pitcher to start an All-Star Game and the fifth pitcher from the club to be invited.  “I want to say it’s a huge honor for me just to be out there,” he said.

The American League knows the importance of this game and with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pushing the buttons, expect a focused effort by the Junior Circuit.  “As far as the importance of the game, I think it’s extremely important,” Girardi said.  “We were recipients of home-field advantage last year and I know it matters for the World Series.”  The AL has ruled interleague play for years and has also won the World Series in four of the last six seasons.  The club will start the game with a couple of All-Star game veterans in Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki and New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter.  Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford, who leads the majors with 70 runs, may play a key role in the No. 9 spot in the order.  The starting nine for the squad is hitting a combined .318 and averaging just over 13 home runs and 54 RBIs.

American League starter David Price is 12-4 with a 2.42 ERA in 17 starts this season, leading the league in both wins and ERA through the first-half.  “It’s awesome,” Price said.  “It’s a great honor that I’m here representing the Rays.”  At 24, Price becomes the youngest pitcher to start the game since 23-year-old Dwight Gooden of the Mets in 1998.  The former No. 1 pick in the draft has been especially difficult to hit for left-handed batters, holding the opposition to a .194 batting average.

The common theme surrounding the first-half of the 2010 MLB season has been the dominance of pitchers over hitters.  The National League is motivated to end its current losing streak and has the arms to do it.  I believe the American League will be hurt by not having a couple Yankees stars in closer Mariano Rivera and starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia.  After losing 12 of the past 13 years (2003 tie) and 11 of those games decided by three runs or less, the NL prevails and gives the league an advantage come October.

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