Darvish vs. Ohtani? Yu wants it to happen

July 6th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- and are international baseball icons, both of whom spent several seasons playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, but never together, before arriving in the United States and taking the big leagues by storm.

They've accomplished plenty in the Majors. But they've never faced each other.

That might change later this month.

Darvish was selected to the National League All-Star team on Sunday after an excellent first half in which he posted a 2.65 ERA across 17 starts for the Padres.

Ohtani, meanwhile, was voted to start the game as the American League's designated hitter, then made the team as a pitcher as well -- the first player in baseball history to be selected to the Midsummer Classic as both a pitcher and a hitter.

After Darvish's selection on Sunday, he was asked about the tantalizing prospect of facing Ohtani on one of the sport's biggest stages on July 13 on FOX.

"Hopefully it happens," Darvish said. "If that happens, I think that would be a great thing. But I can't forget that it's not just something for us, the All-Star Game, it's something grander. I have to keep that perspective, too."

As such, Darvish said he wouldn't explicitly push for the matchup -- which would presumably need to take place in the first few innings of the game before Ohtani is removed from his designated hitter role. Angels manager Joe Maddon said Monday that Ohtani would pitch in the game, but there hasn’t been any clarity regarding the timeline of when he would do so.

“How it’s going to happen has not been concluded,” Maddon said. “There’s different ways to do it.”

Ultimately, it might come down to chance -- whether Darvish’s scheduled inning aligns with an Ohtani at-bat. Still, among the many, many subplots for the 2021 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, taking place at Coors Field in Denver, this is a particularly intriguing one.

"I'm not exactly sure how the country or how other people will look at us being together in the All-Star Game," Darvish said. "But I'm just happy to be there along with him."

Homecoming for Melancon

As a senior at Golden High School in Colorado, Mark Melancon was selected to an area all-star team. It was the first time he ever played a game on Coors Field -- where he'd been going to games as a kid since the ballpark opened in 1995.

Next week, Melancon makes a return trip, again as an All-Star -- this time as a big leaguer.

"It gives me goosebumps," said Melancon, who led the Majors with 25 saves and had a 2.27 ERA through 35 outings this season, going into Monday.

Melancon's fondest memories of growing up and attending games in Colorado are of watching the “Blake Street Bombers.” He was at Coors Field the last time the ballpark hosted an All-Star Game in 1998. Age 13 at the time, Melancon said his most vivid memory was trying to sell off the beanie baby giveaway for a huge profit.

This time, Melancon will be front and center. Heck, there's even a chance he'll serve as the National League's closer, and if he picks up a save he'd be the first Padre to do so in an All-Star Game since Goose Gossage in 1984.

"It's all surreal," Melancon said. "I still feel like I'm living this fake life."

Machado on the outside looking in

The Padres led the National League with four players on the All-Star team. They wanted five.

Manny Machado's 3.3 WAR according to baseball-reference.com is the best mark among National League third basemen. His 2.5 mark per FanGraphs trails only the Dodgers' Justin Turner (who was also surprisingly left off the NL squad).

"It's pretty clear to me he's an All-Star," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said of Machado. "I don't know if there's anybody more consistent, anybody more impactful on both sides of the field. ... As you just watch him on a daily basis, he's just one of the best players in the league."

Heading into Monday's game, Machado was hitting .264/.346/.482, though it's worth pointing out the impact of his huge weekend in Philadelphia on those numbers. All-Star teams were finalized prior to Sunday's games when Machado homered twice, then was walked three times. Most of the player voting was completed before Saturday's game when Machado homered, as well.

Machado has been red-hot since the start of June after struggling a bit in April and May. It’s worth noting that for a sizeable portion of the fan vote, Machado probably wasn’t among the top three third basemen in the NL. Lately, however, he’s proved that he is. Then again, as of Friday night, Machado's OPS was 43 points lower at .785 -- hardly a slam-dunk.

Machado’s 2021 season might be lining up similar to his ’20 campaign (albeit played out over a full 162-game schedule). Machado started slowly last season, too. Had there been an All-Star team to make at the midway point, he might not have been included. By season’s end he was a first-team All-MLB third baseman.

At his current pace -- and considering the lack of a truly dominant third basemen in the first half -- Machado might be on that same trajectory.