CLEVELAND -- The city that bills itself as the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World” has made that moniker the branding backbone of this All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, from the Joan Jett concert at the Summer Bash to the rock-themed fireworks spectacle at Progressive Field to, of course, the guitar-shaped official logo.
Now, finally, tonight, it’s time for the All-Stars themselves to take the stage and show off their chops.
In 2019, it’s the baseball that’s getting rocked, with the league at large on pace to destroy the single-season home run total. Could that carry over into the All-Star Game as it did in 2018, when, for the first time in history (regular season, postseason or All-Star), at least five different players went deep for each team in the same game?
Or will tonight's tilt be owned by the arms that, in the modern game, wow us not just with triple-digit heat but a befuddling variety of breaking pitches?
More than likely, we’ll see a good bit of both, as the National League looks to snap a six-year drought and the American League looks to do as it did when this game last came to Cleveland in 1997. Then, a Puerto Rican-born catcher named Sandy Alomar Jr. was the hometown hero, representing the Tribe with a game-winning homer and MVP honor. Perhaps star shortstop Francisco Lindor, another player from the island or starting first baseman Carlos Santana can pull off a similar feat for the hometown fans.
The matchup will mark just the ninth time, and the first time since 2001 (Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens), that the Midsummer Classic features two starting pitchers age 32 or older. In addition, both the Dodgers and the Astros last had pitchers start the Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati in 2015, when Zack Greinke of the Dodgers squared off against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel.
Everything is amplified (pun intended) at the All-Star Game, and baseball’s best have come to Cleveland to turn it up to 11 and strut their stuff. As they prepare to take the stage, here are answers to frequently asked questions leading up to the All-Star Game.
How can I watch the game?
FOX’s national broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. ET. Joe Buck, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci will have the call.
The game will be broadcast in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage.
Who are the starting pitchers?
NL: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers
NL (and Dodgers) skipper Dave Roberts wasted little time announcing Ryu as his pick the day the full All-Star rosters were revealed. It was an easy choice, as the 32-year-old Ryu -- a first-time All-Star -- has a Major League-best 1.73 ERA through 17 starts in ’19.
Ryu, who will become the first South Korean-born pitcher to start the Midsummer Classic, has never previously pitched at Progressive Field.
AL: Justin Verlander, Astros
Verlander, an All-Star for the eighth time, previously started the game as a Tiger in 2012 in Kansas City and took the loss that night in what still stands as the NL’s most recent win. He also has a long and not-always-stellar history at Progressive Field, having been a longtime member of the Indians’ AL Central rivals. Verlander has a 5.56 ERA in 28 regular-season starts in the building.
Obviously, those bits of trivia didn’t prevent AL manager Alex Cora from tabbing Verlander for the start in the midst of a fantastic age-36 season. Verlander is 10-4 with a 2.98 ERA and a Major League-best 0.81 WHIP.
What are the starting lineups?
*Note: All of the starting position players were elected by the fans, with the exception of the designated hitters. With the Rangers' Hunter Pence injured, he was replaced by Martinez in the lineup, and Roberts selected Bell to start at DH for the NL.
Who’s available off the bench?
Who’s available out of the bullpen?
Were there any roster replacements?
Yes, quite a few.
For the AL, Bogaerts replaced Pence (groin); Torres replaced Brandon Lowe (right shin contusion), who replaced Tommy La Stella (fractured tibia); Berrios replaced Jake Odorizzi (blister); Bieber replaced Charlie Morton (pitched Sunday); Hendriks replaced Mike Minor (rest); and Tanaka replaced Marcus Stroman (pectoral muscle).
For the NL, Muncy replaced Anthony Rendon (injury/rest); Vazquez replaced Zack Greinke (personal matter); Woodruff replaced Josh Hader (back); and Gray replaced Max Scherzer (back).
Are there any rule changes for 2019?
Yes. If the game goes to extra innings, the 10th inning -- and any subsequent inning -- will begin with a runner on second base each time, in order to expedite scoring.
Does the All-Star Game still decide home-field advantage in the World Series?
Nope. As part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated before the 2017 season, that wrinkle was removed. The game is back to being a true exhibition, and home-field advantage in the Fall Classic is now given to the team with the superior regular-season record.
How many times has Cleveland hosted the All-Star Game?
A record six times. In addition to the 1997 game -- back when Progressive Field was in its fourth year of existence and was still known as Jacobs Field -- the Indians were All-Star hosts in 1935, 1954, 1963 and 1981 -- all at Municipal Stadium. Progressive Field now becomes the first of the ballparks introduced in the 1990s to house the game twice.
Which league has the all-time edge in the All-Star Game?
The AL. But barely.
Through 89 Midsummer Classics, the AL has won 44 and the NL 43, with two ties. The scores of those previous 89 games add up to 369 runs for the AL and 367 for the NL. How’s that for closely contested?
What are some other fun facts to know?
• There are 36 first-time All-Stars: Means, Santana, Giolito, McCann, Greene, Pressly, Merrifield, La Stella, Odorizzi, Polanco, Matt Chapman, Vogelbach, Meadows, Gallo, Minor, Stroman, Lowe, Bieber, Hendriks, Muncy, Woodruff, Acuna, Soroka, Marte, Castillo, Dahl, Buehler, Ryu, Alcantara, Alonso, McNeil, Bell, Yates, Smith, DeJong and Rendon.
• At 36 years, 130 days, Verlander is the oldest All-Star on these rosters. At 21 years, 194 days, Acuna is the youngest.
• Trout has the longest active All-Star Game streak, having been selected to eight straight (though he did not participate in 2017, due to injury). He’s the first All-Star to be voted in by the fans in seven straight seasons since Derek Jeter (2006-12) and is looking to become the first three-time winner of the game’s MVP Award.
• Trout, Verlander and Kershaw are in a three-way tie for most All-Star selections, with eight apiece.
• The Astros have the most All-Stars of any team in 2019, with six. Houston has had at least six All-Stars each of the last three years.
The All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.