Red Sox: Chris Sale starts All-Star Game, Mookie Betts batting ninth

KANSAS CITY, MO -JUNE 20: Chris Sale
KANSAS CITY, MO -JUNE 20: Chris Sale /

Boston Red Sox starter Chris Sale has earned the nod to start the 2017 MLB All-Star Game for the American League. Mookie Betts will start in center field.

The starting lineups have been revealed for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game, featuring a pair of Boston Red Sox players.

Chris Sale will start for the American League for the second consecutive year. A year ago he earned the honor representing the Chicago White Sox, but this will be his first time as a member of the Red Sox.

Sale is the first AL pitcher to start consecutive All-Star Games since Dave Stieb (83-84).

The lefty enters the break second in the league with 11 wins and a 2.75 ERA. He also leads the league with a 0.90 WHIP and 178 strikeouts. His 12.55 K/9 is easily the best among starting pitchers, as is his 8.09 K/BB ratio. The first half front-runner for the Cy Young award was the clear choice to start the All-Star Game, so the announcement is merely a formality.

Mookie Betts is the only Red Sox hitter to make the All-Star team. He’ll replace the injured Mike Trout in the starting lineup. Since the AL squad doesn’t have a natural center fielder, the best defensive right fielder in baseball will slide over to cover center. Betts spent 161 games in center field between the 2014-2015 seasons, so the position is hardly foreign to him.

The position change isn’t nearly as surprising as his spot in the lineup. We are accustomed to seeing Betts hit in the leadoff spot, yet the All-Star lineup has him penciled in batting ninth. Brad Mills, the Cleveland Indians bench coach filling in for Terry Francona while he’s sidelined by a heart procedure, was questioned about the decision to put Betts at the bottom of the order. His only explanation was that, “Somebody has to hit ninth.”

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There’s an argument to be made that Betts was put at the bottom of the order because he’s the only starter who wasn’t voted in by the fans. That’s fair. On the other hand, burying a hitter who finished second in MVP voting last year doesn’t seem to be the best strategy to win. Good thing MLB changed the rules so that the All-Star game no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series. This time it doesn’t count. The AL has clearly built their lineup accordingly.

The biggest downside to Betts hitting at the bottom of the order is that it decreases his chances to see multiple at-bats before another outfielder subs in for him. Now that we’re back to the All-Star Game being purely an exhibition, there will be more emphasis on trying to squeeze as many players into the game as possible. At the end of the game, each should be awarded with a participation trophy and taken out for ice cream.

If the AL holds a lead at the end of the game, Craig Kimbrel will be waiting in the bullpen to collect the save. While the fire-breathing reliever hasn’t officially been named as the closer, Kimbrel has arguably been the most dominant pitcher in baseball. Mills would be wise to rely on him in a save situation.

This marks the first time since Derek Lowe in 2002 that the Red Sox have had a pitcher start the All-Star Game. In 1999 we saw Pedro Martinez deliver one of the best All-Star game performances by a pitcher to capture the MVP award.

Next: Pedro earns '99 All-Star MVP

Will Sale dominant the NL lineup the way Pedro once did? Will Mookie deliver a big hit to help his teammate earn the win? Will Kimbrel be the one to slam the door shut on a victory? These are the questions Red Sox fans are eager to see answered in this year’s All-Star Game.