A recap of the midsummer classic

2019 MLB All-Star Game Recap: AL wins 4-3

Astros Michael Brantley
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The 2019 MLB All-Star game was loaded with Astros, including starters Alex Bregman, George Springer, Michael Brantley, and starting pitcher Justin Verlander. Here is how they, along with the rest of the American League team, did against the National League squad.

Verlander gets the nod and tosses a great inning

Justin Verlander received the honor of starting the All-Star game, and with the game in Cleveland, was up on the mound in the top of the first. He was impressive in the first, getting a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. He would get just the one inning as the AL went to Masahiro Tanaka in the second.

Astros provide the early offense

George Springer recorded the first hit of the night, leading off the bottom of the first with a single. He would move to second then third on a couple of groundouts but would be left stranded there to end the inning. Tanaka worked around a two-out single in the top of the second to keep the game scoreless.

Alex Bregman gave the American League their second hit by lasering a ball down the third base line and giving the sure-gloved Nolan Arenado too much handle, earning a one-out single. He would come around to score the first run of the night after Michael Brantley shot a ball into the left-center gap off of Clayton Kershaw, getting Bregman home from first on an RBI-double.

Offenses heat up in the middle innings

The 1-0 lead held over the next few innings as the All-Star pitchers made it through the opposing lineups with just a few hits along the way. That is until the bottom of the fifth when the AL would get a leadoff double by Gary Sanchez of the Yankees who moved to third on a groundball then scored on an RBI-single by Jorge Polanco of the Twins to extend the lead to 2-0.

The National League finally got on the board themselves in the top of the next inning, getting a two-out solo home run from Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies to trim the lead to 2-1. The AL would answer back in the bottom of the seventh, putting the lead back at two runs after Matt Chapman of the A's worked a leadoff walk, moved to third on a single by James McCann of the White Sox, then scored on a double play, making it a 3-1 lead.

Joey Gallo of the Rangers came in as a pinch-hitter next, and hit the second home run of the night with a solo home run on the first pitch he saw, extending the lead further to 4-1.

AL holds on to win

The NL had their best inning of offense in the top of the eighth, loading the bases against Brad Hand of the Indians to set up a two-RBI single for Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso of the Mets, cutting the lead to one run at 4-3.

Hand would get out of the inning with the one-run lead, then Aroldis Chapman, closer for the Yankees, came in for the top of the ninth. He would get through the inning scoreless, giving the AL their seventh straight All-Star game win.

Final Score: American League All-Stars 4, National League All-Stars 3.

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Who's going to step up in the Astros outfield? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

Astros manager Joe Esapda has certainly faced his share of criticism this season. When it was looking like another playoff appearance was out of reach in May, many were putting the blame mostly on Espada (Jose Abreu took his lumps too).

Now that the Astros have crawled above .500 and are in striking distance of the division leading Mariners, a new challenge has emerged.

Who should be playing regularly in the outfield and at first base? It would be nice if one of these options really stood out from the rest of the pack. But that hasn't been the case, at least since Joey Loperfido returned on June 21. So I decided to dive into this minuscule sample size to see who's making the best case to get regular at-bats as of late.

How have the bats fared since Loperfido returned?

When Loperfido rejoined the team, the Astros said they would get him more at-bats this time around. And that did happen for a while. He started five straight games after being recalled to the big league club (June 21).

His first game back was terrific as he recorded 3 hits with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs. But after that, he's done next to nothing as a starter. He did have a huge pinch hit against the Mets, but otherwise he's been pretty underwhelming since his big game against the Orioles on June 21.

So if Loperfido doesn't appear quite ready, what about Chas McCormick? McCormick shares some similarities with Loperfido recording one multi-hit game since June 21. He's started 4 games, plus some pinch hit opportunities. He, too, had a big game against Baltimore, but hasn't done much else in limited chances.

Trey Cabbage has shown some flashes with 1 multi-hit game in three starts. But nothing to write home about.

Mauricio Dubon has 2 multi-hit games with nine starts over this span, splitting time in the infield and outfield.

Jake Meyers appears to be the mainstay out of this group. His offense has been solid, and his defense is Gold Glove worthy. He has two multi-hit games in nine starts.

Jon Singelton may not play the outfield, but he does impact Dubon's playing time at first. He has two multi-hit games in six starts, which includes a three-hit game with a dinger against the Mets.

Let's assess the situation

Okay, we covered all the recent stats for these players and one thing has become apparent. Nobody is doing enough to get regular starts outside of Meyers and Dubon. And that has more to do with their season-long resume.

One could argue Singleton has been okay over this short stretch. But he's almost 33 years old. Expecting him to show much improvement over his career numbers seems unlikely. He'll continue to get chances against right-handed pitching, but that's about as far as it goes. We've already seen him lose playing time to Dubon even with righties on the mound.

Just look at Wednesday's lineup. Espada started all righties outside of Yordan Alvarez against left-handed Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi.

Photo via: MLB.com/Screenshot

Right-handed hittingGrae Kessinger is starting at first base over Singleton and Loperfido. This should tell us everything we need to know about the logjam in the outfield and at first base.

Espada has seemingly made this a full-blown platoon situation. And that's not changing unless one of these players steps up and takes the job.

Over the next two weeks before the All Star break, the sample size will get bigger, and we'll have a better idea of who deserves the most playing time. Hopefully, Kyle Tucker will return around that time, and that will make cracking the lineup even harder for these guys.

That's when predicting the Astros lineup will get a lot easier, in theory. Meyers and Dubon have done enough to play almost every day. With Meyers in center and Dubon bouncing between the outfield and first base. Which means Singleton will start against righties fairly often, and Dubon should play first when a lefty is on the mound.

If that's the case, Espada won't be looking to put Cabbage or Loperfido in left field against a southpaw. Chas McCormick will likely get most of those starts, being right-handed.

What about Yordan?

When he plays left field, we typically see Yainer Diaz hitting DH. I would expect that to continue. When Yainer has the day off and Yordan plays left, expect Espada to play the matchup (shocker).

The other factor to consider is Cesar Salazar. We know he'll get starts behind the plate, spelling Yainer Diaz. So those lineups could be a little tougher to predict depending on if Yainer is in the DH spot.

But Salazar does deserve a quick mention. Espada received some criticism for pinch hitting Cabbage for him in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's loss. This season, Salazar has been money with runners in scoring position. He's slashing .571/.500/.714 with an OPS of 1.214.

Cabbage made Espada look even worse with an uncompetitive at-bat, swinging at three straight high fastballs.

But that goes along with the point of this article. Espada is going to have his hands full trying to predict which player will come through on any given day.

If someone doesn't separate themselves from the bunch, he's going to play the matchups almost exclusively. Which is understandable based on the cards he's been dealt.

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