The excitement of a 6-1 victory that capped a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros on Sunday was tempered when the Angels learned that only one player from their club, which has the third-best record in baseball, was named to the American League All-Star team.
Center fielder Mike Trout, who is batting .308 with a team-high 20 home runs and 63 runs batted in, will start the July 15 game for the second straight year, but he turned down an invitation to participate in the home run derby, saying he “just wants to be able to enjoy” the event and that he may do it later in his career.
Snubbed were pitcher Garrett Richards, who got the win over the Astros on Sunday to improve to 10-2 with a 2.71 earned-run average and 119 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings, and slick-fielding shortstop Erick Aybar, who is hitting .278 with six homers and 43 RBIs, most among AL shortstops.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” said Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, a nine-time All-Star. “I think Aybar should be an All-Star. He’s the shortstop with the most RBIs. And Garrett has been outstanding. Look at the numbers. Look what he’s done all season long.
“The guy’s electric. He’s unbelievable. He throws 97, 98 mph with a nasty 89-mph slider. The guy's amazing. When you’ve got hitters who come to first base and say how unbelievable he is, you know how nasty he is.”
Richards, who has held opponents to a league-low .196 average (83 for 423), was named to the “final five” ballot, in which fans vote for the final player to be added to the team. The others on the ballot are Chicago’s Chris Sale, Detroit’s, Rick Porcello, Houston’s Dallas Keuchel and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. All are pitchers.
Richards will also have a decent chance of being added to the team if an All-Star pitcher drops out because of injury or is unable to participate because he pitches next Sunday, two days before the July 15 game in Minnesota.
Richards is scheduled to pitch Friday night in Texas, so he would be in line to pitch in the All-Star game.
“It’s a little disappointing, but there’s still a chance,” said Richards, who allowed one run and six hits in 7 1/3 innings Sunday, striking out 11, a career-high, and walking one. “I’m more concerned with the second half, to be honest with you.
“I’ve had a pretty good first half, but more importantly, we’re playing good baseball as a team right now. I’m more concerned with the team’s overall record than myself. I’ll take a World Series over an All-Star game any day.”
Trout, the AL most valuable player runner-up in 2012 and 2013, has put together an MVP-caliber first half, leading the league with a 1.005 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and ranking second with a .603 slugging percentage and 48 extra-base hits.
Trout is the first Angels player with 20 homers and 60 RBIs before the All-Star break since Vladimir Guerrero in 2004, the year the slugger won the MVP award, and he is the 13th player in major league history with at least 20 homers before the break in his age-22 season.
“It means a lot that you have fans that take the time out to vote for me,” Trout said. “The All-Star game is for the fans. It’s going to be something special, to be able to be there with the fans. The last two experiences I had at the All-Star game were awesome. It’s definitely one of the things I look forward to.”