MIAMI -- No team will be as well-represented as the Nationals at the start of tonight's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.Washington will have four starters on the field for tonight's Midsummer Classic (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX), the most of any team, now that right-hander Max Scherzer was named
MIAMI -- No team will be as well-represented as the Nationals at the start of tonight's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
Washington will have four starters on the field for tonight's Midsummer Classic (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX), the most of any team, now that right-hander Max Scherzer was named the National League's starting pitcher, and they have five players in Miami overall. Scherzer will have his entire right side of the infield behind him, with Ryan Zimmerman at first base and Daniel Murphy at second base, and Bryce Harper will man right field. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg is the fifth All-Star.
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"The organization, the fan base, has come a long way," said Zimmerman, the longest-tenured Nationals player. "It's been fun for me personally to kind of grow up with them, I guess you could say. Baseball was in D.C. and then gone for a long time, so a generation missed out, basically, on baseball.
"I don't want to say they had to completely relearn how to be baseball fans, but 10 years ago, the fan base was a lot different than it is now. They're into the game a lot more now. It's been fun for me to grow up as a player and a person with them, and I think that shows with the guys starting with the fan votes. I don't think that would have ever happened 10 years ago, so it's a testament to the fans."
The five All-Stars is tied for the third-most in the Majors with the Yankees (behind only the Dodgers and Astros with six). It's another testament to this strong Nationals team, loaded with star power, who is running away with the National League East. They entered the All-Star break with a commanding 9 1/2-game lead in the division and also have two of the biggest snubs from the NL team in third baseman Anthony Rendon and left-hander Giovany Gonzalez.
Zimmerman has seen the entire transformation of the Nationals. He was the team's first Draft pick after it moved to Washington in 2005, and he went through the last-place finishes and 100-loss seasons to now see the team on the cusp of its fourth playoff appearance in six seasons. And this year he's one of the most unlikely All-Stars present in Miami. A notorious slow starter, he returns to the Midsummer Classic for only the second time in his career and first since 2009.
After struggling to stay on the field the past three seasons, he already has been worth 2.2 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, and is hitting .330/.373/.596 with 19 home runs.
"For me, it's been health. This game's hard enough to play," he said. "When you're in there for a month and then you miss 4-6 weeks, try to come back midseason, you go do a couple rehab games, come back and play against guys who are in midseason form, you're trying to catch up, and it's just not an easy game if you're not getting consistent at-bats."
Strasburg is making his third trip to the All-Star Game and second consecutive trip, although he did not pitch in the game last season. Although he was not sure what Cubs manager Joe Maddon had planned, Strasburg said he's available to pitch this year even after he got hit near his hip with a comebacker during his start Saturday. He said he was feeling no lingering effects from the injury, other than a bruise.
Murphy is an All-Star for the third time in his career, and this will be his first career start. He has transformed himself into one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball the past two years. A student of the game, Murphy was excited to have a chance to talk hitting with the rest of the All-Stars and to enjoy the Home Run Derby with his family. In his first All-Star appearance in 2014, Murphy was the lone Mets representative at the game, so he has experienced both ends of the spectrum.
"There's five of us here, but we're representing the entire team," Murphy said. "Plus the fact that Rendon and Gonzalez were very much deserving as well. It really is a lot of fun to be able to share this experience with these guys."
Tonight 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.