National League (43-39-2) vs. American League (39-43-2)
Time/Place: 8:00 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: All of them
Pitching Matchup: RHP Adam Wainwright (12-4, 1.83 ERA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (11-2, 2.12 ERA)
Earlier this season, it looked as if 2014 would finally be Adam Wainwright's year. Twice, he has finished second in the NL Cy Young voting. He added a third place finish in 2009. Never has he won the big prize. Things looked good early on, as he breezed through April with a 5-1 record and 1.20 ERA. He struggled somewhat in May, bookending four excellent starts with two duds for a 3.57 ERA, but a 2.62 FIP. He missed a couple of starts in June due to minor knee and elbow injuries, respectively. He has been lights out since the end of May, however, allowing just six earned runs in his last 52 2/3 innings.
But he probably won't win the Cy Young Award because he has the misfortune of being in the same league against Clayton Kershaw. Never mind that Wainwright leads the league in innings per start, and is second overall to Johnny Cueto in innings pitched. Or that his 1.83 ERA is just 0.05 higher than Kershaw's despite having thrown 42 more innings. Or that... OK, the comparison falls apart here. Kershaw has been on another level. However, this takes nothing away from Wainwright, who keeps plugging along as one of the most underrated starters in baseball.
Felix Hernandez might not have started this game a week ago, but I would argue that King Felix deserved the nod even ahead of a healthy Masahiro Tanaka. Hernandez has quietly put together the best season of his career, setting new bests in literally every pitching stat that I regularly use on this site. He has eight starts with two earned runs or fewer in eight innings or more, but has yet to toss a complete game in 2014. All but one of his 20 starts have been quality starts. The Mariners are 14-6 in games that he starts, which may be the most impressive stat of all.
How impressive has King Felix been? He has been worth 5.2 wins above replacement, a full win higher than Jon Lester and nearly two wins above Wainwright. If he gets better in the second half -- I'm not ruling it out -- he could be baseball's first 10 WAR pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2001. His 2.04 FIP is second to only Kershaw's, while his 2.12 ERA is second among AL pitchers to Chris Sale, who is nearly 50 innings behind Hernandez's pace. He is somehow only stranding 73 percent of baserunners, which seems quite low for a pitcher of his caliber.
Hitter to fear: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.571/1.000 in 7 plate appearances vs. Wainwright)
Hitter to fail: Carlos Gomez (.111/.111/.111 in 9 plate appearances vs. Hernandez)
Small sample sizes aside, Miguel Cabrera is hitting .400 in his career against both of tonight's starting pitchers. He and Josh Donaldson are the only players to have a 1.000 OPS against the opposing league's starter, but there's a good chance that Donaldson -- hitting eighth in the order -- won't even face Wainwright. Amazingly, Wainwright has never faced AL leadoff hitter Derek Jeter, while Hernandez has never faced reigning NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt. Feared slugger Giancarlo Stanton may not want to face King Felix -- he is 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his career.
Baseball will be hard pressed to reproduce the magic of last year's All-Star Game, if for no other reason than because it was legitimately a good baseball game. The National League lineup was held to just three hits by many of the same pitchers that will be featured this evening -- Hernandez, Sale, Max Scherzer, and Greg Holland all pitched last year -- while the AL will see almost a completely revamped pitching rotation. We won't see another Prince Fielder triple, but who knows what sorts of fun events await in this year's midsummer classic.
The AL wins their second All-Star Game in a row and eighth since the game began determining home field advantage in 2003.
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