WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been one of the best teams in the National League this season, carried by their stars to a commanding 7 1/2 game lead in the NL East entering Sunday. Washington will be represented by five players in Miami for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been one of the best teams in the National League this season, carried by their stars to a commanding 7 1/2 game lead in the NL East entering Sunday. Washington will be represented by five players in Miami for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on July 11.
Bryce Harper, MLB's leading vote-getter (4,630,306), leads the way for the Nats' trio of starting position players, along with second baseman Daniel Murphy and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, both of whom are starting for the first time. They are joined by right-handers Max Scherzer, who has emerged as an early favorite to repeat as the NL Cy Young Award winner, and Stephen Strasburg.
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"Having Zim start for the first time, Murph, I'm very excited for those two guys to get into it," Harper said. "It just goes to show how good their years have been, and how good our fans are and what our organization does for voting. I'm very happy for those two guys to get in for starts for the first time. I'm super excited for them."
The Nats have a chance for a sixth member, as third baseman Anthony Rendon is a candidate for the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote, competing against Chicago's Kristopher Bryant, Miami's Justin Bour, Colorado's Mark Reynolds, and Los Angeles' Justin Turner.
Harper becomes an All-Star for the fifth time in his already accomplished career even at the age of 24. He returns to the Midsummer Classic for his fourth career start. Harper has rebounded from a disappointing 2016 to hit .313/.422/.576 with 18 home runs and has been worth 2.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.
"I'm definitely humbled by fans, the way they treat me and the way they go about it," Harper said. "To vote for me, I can't thank them enough."
For just the second time in his career and first since 2009, Zimmerman will be an All-Star as he enjoys a rebound season after enduring through the worst year of his career. His .994 OPS is on pace for a career high, and he enters Sunday with 19 homers, his highest total since '13.
"Sports are funny," Zimmerman said. "I mean, to go through the injuries and different position. Completely different spot in life. It's fun to think about what's happened since  and what I've gone through and what the organization has gone through as well. It's just a crazy path to get back, but it's also pretty cool."
Murphy has developed into one of the premier hitters in the game and is being rewarded with his second consecutive All-Star selection and third overall. He is putting together another fantastic season at the plate, hitting .334/.387/.569 with 14 homers.
Scherzer could be a candidate to start the All-Star Game, as he puts together perhaps the best first half of any pitcher in the NL. Picking up from his Cy Young Award-winning 2016 season, Scherzer leads the NL with a 2.06 ERA, a 212 ERA+ and 151 strikeouts (2nd in MLB) in 113 2/3 innings. Even though it will be Scherzer's fifth consecutive All-Star Game appearance, there are few players who enjoy the experience as much as he does. He will be joined on the pitching staff by Strasburg, whose 3.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts (eighth best in MLB) in 102 2/3 innings earned him his third All-Star selection.
"I definitely think it's a team honor," Murphy said. "We've played really well this year, and to have this many representatives, I think, is a reflection on how good our ball club is."
Fans can cast ballots for the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com, Club sites and their mobile devices until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners, as chosen exclusively by online fan voting totals, will then be announced during "MLB Tonight" live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. Extensive coverage throughout the Final Vote will be provided by MLB Network and MLB.com, including interviews with the candidates, frequent updates, heat maps indicating where votes are being cast for each candidate, news on player and club campaigns, and a running countdown clock leading up to the announcement.
Now in its 16th season, with more than 680 million votes cast, the Final Vote again will include social votes on the last day of balloting, as Twitter support for the 10 candidates over the final six hours of balloting will count toward their vote totals. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners.
On Tuesday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.