The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 7, 2013

First-place Bucs earn four All-Star Game nods

PITTSBURGH — Justly rewarded for approaching the 84th Midsummer Classic with one of baseball’s best records, the Pirates placed four All-Stars on the 2013 National League squad.

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen and closer Jason Grilli, whose selections were anticipated, are joined by third baseman Pedro Alvarez and young left-hander Jeff Locke.

The quartet gives the Pirates their best All-Star representation in 32 years — since outfielders Dave Parker and Mike Easler, second baseman Phil Garner and third baseman Bill Madlock were tabbed in 1981.

The squads were revealed Saturday on FOX television’s MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell.

McCutchen’s selection by the players was almost a given, since at the conclusion of last season, he was their pick to receive the Players Choice Award as NL Most Outstanding Player.

He becomes the Pirates’ first three-time All-Star since infielder Freddy Sanchez (2006- 07, 2009). But he is the Bucs first position player to make three consecutive All-Star teams since Bobby Bonilla (1988-91).

The selection is also a confirmation of Grilli’s persevering rise from career-long obscurity to elite closer, a role he is filling for the first time as a 36-year-old veteran 13 years after his big-league debut.

Locke was recognized for his remarkable about-face after a loss in his first start of the season put his career record at 1-7. He has since won eight consecutive decisions and ranks among the league leaders with a 2.12 ERA.

Alvarez’s power surge made him a first-time All-Star. He began play Saturday ranking third in the NL with 21 homers — 17 of them since the beginning of May. Alvarez was also tied for sixth in the league with 56 RBIs.

If not on the original roster, Alvarez would likely be considered a prime candidate for the Final Vote ballot, given his popularity as a New York native and past successes in his hometown Citi Field. While he no longer has to seek that entry into the All-Star Game, the final vote does take center stage with five other candidates for fans’ ballots.

So from Saturday to Thursday, July 11, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com for the final player for each League’s All-Star roster.

And the voting doesn’t end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.

The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International’s independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Aside from his personal breakthrough, Grilli makes it three summers in a row for Pittsburgh’s closer traveling to the All-Star Game, following Joel Hanrahan’s selections the past two years.

Not even Hanrahan could match Grilli’s first-half total of 28 saves (in 29 opportunities) entering Saturday, a new pre-All-Star break club record.

The most glaring omission is that of Mark Melancon, who statistically is having an even better season than Grilli (0.87 ERA in 42 appearances, compared to 2.15 in 40), but is doing it in the relatively unsung role of a setup reliever.

“For an eighth-inning guy to make it, it’s out of the ordinary,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said prior to Saturday’s game.

Also bypassed was Francisco Liriano, the veteran left-hander who tied Locke for the team lead by winning his eighth game Friday with a complete game, the Pirates’ first since last July 31.

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