The All-Star Game may amount to little more than an exhibition for the players whose teams are out of contention, but as the Giants will tell you, it can mean a whole lot more.
In fact, the Giants probably owe some of their recent World Series success to the Mid-Summer Classic, the winner of which determines home-field advantage. They were able to open the 2010 and 2012 World Series at home as a result of National League victories. After an NL defeat last year, they opened the Fall Classic on the road and were extended to seven games.
“Your priority is not to get everybody in as much as it used to be,” Giants and NL manager Bruce Bochy said Monday. “There is a lot at stake.”
Bochy named Los Angeles Dodgers ace Zack Greinke to start the game tonight in Cincinnati. He also considered his own ace, Madison Bumgarner, and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gerrit Cole for the assignment, with Bumgarner ready and willing. Greinke’s recent dominance, described by Bochy as “historic,” won out.
“These numbers he’s putting up are really, really unbelievable,” Bochy said of Greinke, who hasn’t allowed a run in his last 35 2/3 innings.
The Giants figure to have a lot to say about the outcome. Buster Posey will start and bat fifth in the order. Second baseman Joe Panik and shortstop Brandon Crawford are slated to come off the bench and possibly may finish the game.
Bochy all but guaranteed that Bumgarner would pitch in the game for the first time in his career. The three-time All-Star is likely to get the call in the early or middle innings.
Panik and Crawford will be the second double-play combination to appear in the same All-Star Game in team history. Jeff Kent and Rich Aurelia achieved the feat in the 2001 season.
“It’s a busy couple of days, and it’s definitely a lot of fun,” Panik said, per MLB.com. “There’s no other place that I’d rather be than here.”
“It’s awesome,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, I’ll get in the game with him. To have someone that you’re comfortable with up the middle and you’ve had chemistry with the past year, it’ll be awesome to play in the game and maybe turn a double play or two with him. That would be pretty cool.”
Like Bumgarner and Posey, Panik and Crawford were Giants draft picks and developed in their farm system.
“There’s a lot of good double-play combinations,” Panik said. “But I definitely think Brandon and I have made a lot of strides together. I’m not going to put any rankings on it, but I’m definitely proud to be a part of it.”
Batterymates Sonny Gray and Stephen Vogt will represent the Athletes on the American League squad.
“There’s nobody else I’d rather share this moment with than Sonny,” Vogt said, per MLB.com. “He was the first person I caught when I was traded to the A’s organization. We’ve kind of worked together the majority of the last couple years. He’s just such a young, talented phenom and good friend of mine. I’m just so happy to be here with him.”
While Gray will not pitch in the game — he fired a two-hit shutout in Cleveland on Sunday — he will be on hand for the festivities.
“Maybe during the game there might be some wishing I was able to pitch, but as of now, I’m just trying to enjoy everything,” Gray said. “The whole All-Star experience has been awesome so far.”