Cardinals’ Hit or Miss Offense Is Missing Again

ST. LOUIS — The baseball schedule is so unforgiving that most teams, by the end, know just who they are. The St. Louis Cardinals are still searching, and they are running out of time.

In the first two games of the National League Championship Series against the Washington Nationals, the Cardinals lost twice and scored just one run. A pinch-hitter, Jose Martinez, was 2 for 2. The rest of the hitters were 2 for 55.

“It’s just pretty obvious,” said Paul Goldschmidt, who singled to break up Max Scherzer’s no-hitter in the seventh inning of Game 2. “You score one run, you’re not going to win many games.”

If you score 10 in the first inning, you have a much better shot. The Cardinals did that in their division series clincher in Atlanta, coasting to a 13-1 victory. But the Nationals have unplugged their offense and hidden the power cord.

“That’s kind of been the story of our season, really,” first baseman Matt Carpenter said. “Our offense, at times, has been hit or miss. We’ve had stretches where we’ve struggled to score and we’ve had stretches where we’ve just poured it on. Hopefully we can get one where we pour it on here in the next couple of days, get some confidence back and get some guys rolling.”

But the Cardinals could not solve the soft-throwing Anibal Sanchez on Friday night, or the hard-throwing Scherzer in the shadows on Saturday afternoon. Now Stephen Strasburg awaits them in Game 3 on Monday at Nationals Park, with Patrick Corbin to follow in Game 4.

Strasburg has 21 strikeouts and one walk in 15 October innings, with a 2.40 earned run average. Corbin, a two-time All-Star, was 8-2 with a 2.40 E.R.A. at home in the regular season.

“I feel like we’re road warriors,” Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. “We’ve found our niche on the road; we know how to play on the road. We know the pitchers we’re up against, the odds we’re up against. But that’s what we’re all about. That’s what we love.”

The Cardinals are an unlikely underdog. They are playing in their 10th N.L.C.S. in the last 20 seasons, and their 11 World Series titles are second only to the Yankees’ 27. But they missed the playoffs the last three seasons as the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers took over the N.L. Central, and needed an all-around effort to return.

“This year, we have a complete team that is doing a lot of different things well that we haven’t been doing the last few years,” starter Adam Wainwright said. “This year we played much better defense, this year we ran the bases much better, this year our starting pitching was a little better, this year our bullpen was certainly much better. We have more thump in the middle of our lineup than we’ve had in years.”

The thumpers — Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Marcell Ozuna — combined for 94 homers this season. But the Cardinals had only 210 homers over all and 764 runs scored this season, both figures ranking last among teams with winning records.

That sets these Cardinals apart from their last championship team in 2011. Those Cardinals were a wild-card team, but they led the N.L. in runs scored and beat three Philadelphia Phillies aces — Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay — in a first-round upset. They battered another ace, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Zack Greinke, in the N.L.C.S., and ravaged the Texas Rangers’ bullpen in the World Series.

This time, the Nationals’ aces have dispatched the Cardinals with ease, and relievers Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson — who returned to save Game 2 after missing the opener for the birth of his daughter — have been sharp this month.

The Cardinals have hope in Game 3 because of their starter, Jack Flaherty, a 23-year-old right-hander with a 1.13 E.R.A., postseason included, since the All-Star break. The rookie Dakota Hudson, a 16-game winner in the regular season, will start Game 4.

“This series is far from over, and we have a guy going that’s really the best guy in baseball in the second half, undisputed, going for us on Monday,” Manager Mike Shildt said, referring to Flaherty. “I’m very optimistic, still, about this series.”

This is how the Cardinals scripted it, after all, managing their young pitchers’ workloads so they would be available in October. It was a deliberate effort not to repeat the Nationals’ infamous decision to shut down Strasburg before the 2012 playoffs to protect his long-term health. The Cardinals beat Washington in the division series that fall, and it took four more tries for the Nationals to advance to the N.L.C.S.

Now that they have, they seem eager to make it a short stay. They could be just two games away from the World Series, which has not come to Washington since 1933.

“The atmosphere in the playoffs at Nationals Park has been incredible,” Scherzer said. “They come out and they go nuts from the first pitch. So I have a feeling it’s even going to be more crazy given what we have done, and really our first postseason win as an organization. I think it means a lot to everybody in D.C.”

Unless the Cardinals quickly solve Scherzer’s fellow pitchers, the District can start planning the party.

Ryan Zimmerman and Max Scherzer Lift Nationals Past Dodgers

WASHINGTON — Ryan Zimmerman was the first player ever drafted by the Washington Nationals, with the fourth overall choice in 2005. He had starred at the University of Virginia, but this was more than a hometown selection. It was a sound baseball pick that gave the team its first homegrown star.

“He’s been here the whole time,” said Max Scherzer, the Nationals’ star right-hander. “He’s given everything to this organization, from beginning to end, staying through the bad times and the good times.”

Zimmerman made his debut at age 20, in a game that included Julio Franco, who is now 61 years old, and John Smoltz and Chipper Jones, who are now in the Hall of Fame. He hit his first career homer at Shea Stadium, and his second at R.F.K. Stadium. None of his first seven Nationals teams finished with a winning record, a stretch of futility that ended with the first of their four National League East titles in 2012.

At 35, Zimmerman is coming to the end of his $135 million contract and wants to keep playing. But he often struggles with injuries and knows nothing is certain. On the field in Los Angeles last weekend, during a tense moment in his team’s N.L. division series against the Dodgers, he turned to the first base umpire and said, “Whenever I’m done, this is what I’m going to miss.”

The occasion then was a bullpen appearance by Scherzer, the snarling ace who struck out the side in relief to help send the series to Nationals Park tied, one-all. Two games later, it heads back to Dodger Stadium tied again, largely because of Scherzer and Zimmerman.

Scherzer throttled the Dodgers for seven steely innings on Monday, and Zimmerman broke the game open with a three-run homer to center field in the fifth. The Nationals avoided elimination with a 6-1 victory, setting up a matchup of aces in Game 5.

Walker Buehler versus Stephen Strasburg with Kershaw probably available in the pen — I mean, this is why you play the game,” Zimmerman said. “This is what we live for.”

The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will indeed be available in relief, but Scherzer will not. He fired 109 pitched on just two days of rest in Game 4, holding the Dodgers to four hits and a run with seven strikeouts. He could feel his arm angle dropping from fatigue in the seventh, he said, and his next pitch will be in the N.L. Championship Series, if the Nationals survive.

“My arm is hanging right now,” Scherzer said. “That pushed me all the way to the edge and then some. I can’t imagine any scenario where I’m pitching.”

Strasburg stymied the Dodgers in Game 2, and he has given up one earned run in nine innings this postseason, with no walks and 14 strikeouts. But Buehler has also been an October stalwart; in his last two postseason appearances, including Game 3 of last year’s World Series, he has thrown 13 shutout innings and allowed just three hits.

“I think the thing that’s kind of lost in playoff baseball is that it’s really fun,” Buehler said. “The pressure and things like that, if you spin it in your head the right way, it can make it more fun.”

Facing Scherzer could not have been much fun for the Dodgers, who started two rookie left-handed hitters — Matt Beaty and Gavin Lux — to try to get a matchup advantage. No such luck: Both came up in the second and fourth innings and could not advance a runner from second. Lux ended the fourth with a swinging third strike, chasing a fastball well above the zone.

Scherzer was only getting stronger. He had given up a homer to Justin Turner in the first inning — a long one, over the left field bullpen — but struck out the side in the fifth. By then the Dodgers were well into their bullpen, and the Nationals’ offense took advantage.

Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts was destined to make this a bullpen game because starter Rich Hill had been limited by recent injuries. That style can work when relievers are at their best, flummoxing lineups with different angles and pitches. The problem comes when one pitcher has an off night and blows up the plan.

So it was with Julio Urias on Monday. He gave up singles to three of his five hitters, with Anthony Rendon’s breaking a 1-1 tie. Zimmerman followed with his blast off Pedro Baez, his first home run of the postseason and just his seventh of the season.

“In those moments, I take a look real quick at the dugout,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “That’s what fires me up, is the guys, because they were battling hard. And when those big moments come, you can see it in their faces. It’s huge.”

Scherzer carried the lead through the seventh, and Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson collected the last six outs. There would be at least one more game for the Nationals and for Zimmerman, another chance to finally advance to the N.L.C.S.

For Zimmerman, the old days are long gone, and not worth revisiting. The Nationals have come too far to look back.

“We’re so far past that now,” Zimmerman said. “I think it’s kind of made me who I am. A lot of these guys didn’t even ever go through that kind of stuff. So I think it’s a good thing — we’ve moved on to where we’re expected to make the playoffs every year, we’re expected to compete.”

For the Nationals, playoff competition has always ended early and painfully. Zimmerman and Scherzer earned the chance for Strasburg to change that on Wednesday.

“Especially when you’ve played a little bit longer, you start to realize how hard it is to get there,” Strasburg said. “All you can really do is just give it everything you have.”

Max Scherzer Stifles the Dodgers in a Rare Relief Outing

LOS ANGELES — Max Scherzer said he had not even worked up a sweat when he trotted out of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen late Friday night. He’s used to warming up when the sun is still out, after all.

But with the Nationals up by two runs over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of their National League division series, Washington Manager Dave Martinez turned to Scherzer, their veteran starter, to protect the lead in the eighth inning.

The strategy worked. Again.

The bullpen door swinging open has been a source of trepidation for the Nationals this season, as their relievers had the worst E.R.A. (5.66) in the majors. The sight of Scherzer running out undoubtedly brought different emotions.

Scherzer was dominant, striking out the side in the eighth inning on 14 pitches — including a 99 m.p.h. fastball — to help the Nationals win, 4-2, and even the best-of-five series at one game apiece as the teams head to Washington for Games 3 and 4.

Friday was the fourth time Scherzer — a three-time Cy Young Award winner — has pitched out of the bullpen in the postseason, but he has had mixed results: 1-1 with a 6.75 E.R.A. Against the Dodgers, though, the 35-year-old Scherzer pitched like a true setup man.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said of Scherzer pitching the eighth.

It was not the first time Nationals Manager Dave Martinez used one of his star starters out of the bullpen — Strasburg did so in Washington’s wild card game victory on Tuesday — but going to Scherzer this early in the series was a drastic move.

“It’s what the team needs,” Scherzer said. “When your number gets called, you’ve got to go out there and produce.”

Strasburg started on Friday, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out 10 in six innings to earn the win. He lowered his career postseason E.R.A. to 0.64. It was a role reversal from Tuesday’s wild card game, when Scherzer started and Strasburg followed with three shutout innings of relief.

Then Strasburg started Friday after only two full days of rest.

“I’m very routine-oriented and I would say my younger self would be a little bit alarmed by it,” the 31-year-old Strasburg said. But now, he added, “it’s just another challenge.”

Starting pitching is the top priority in the postseason, but the Nationals have used their formidable starters in relief to work around a shaky bullpen.

“Those guys are a big part of why we are here,” Martinez said of his relievers. “I’ve said this before, they have had their struggles, but they understand it’s one game, we play for one game. Our biggest emphasis all year was to go 1-0, and now it’s that time.”

The series is tied at one game each, and the teams now head to Nationals Park with the possibility of Scherzer starting Game 3 on Sunday. “Whenever they want me to pitch, I’ll pitch,” he said after Friday’s game.

Scherzer was so good and efficient that he looked like he could have continued in the ninth inning, but Martinez told Scherzer before the game he wouldn’t do that. Still, the manager considered it.

“Trust me, I was biting my lip, scratching my head,” Martinez said.

Martinez opted for his closer, Daniel Hudson, for the ninth. He got the job done, but it was an adventure after Justin Turner smacked a double and Martinez opted to intentionally walk Max Muncy with two outs. Hudson walked Will Smith — who represented the go-ahead run — to load the bases, and then struck out Corey Seager to earn the save.

Dodgers batters struck out 17 times in the loss — 13 of which were at the hands of Strasburg and Scherzer.

One day earlier, Los Angeles starter Walker Buehler was dominant in powering the Dodgers to a 6-0 Game 1 victory, but the Nationals didn’t crumble in Game 2. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers struggled early in his start Friday, allowing three runs in six innings and hitting two batters. Strasburg pitched with a 3-0 cushion after two innings.

The rest of the Nationals marveled at the way Scherzer and Strasburg were helping in different ways, but they were not surprised.

“They’ve been doing that all year,” Hudson said. “Stephen was out there dominating. Max out of the pen is a different animal. He’s dominant, too. Most of the time when they have that adrenaline going late in the game, it’s fun to watch.”

Martinez said he would wait until Saturday to see how Scherzer feels before making a decision on a Game 3 starter. If not Scherzer, Martinez will turn to Anibal Sanchez.

Either way, Strasburg and Scherzer have already carried a heavy load, and in unfamiliar roles, to keep the Nationals in the series against a Dodgers team that has punished opposing pitchers all year.

“I think everybody would do that,” Scherzer said. “It’s not just us. There’s 25 guys in here that play at that same level. From the outside looking in, maybe it looks like that but this clubhouse we’ve got a really good group here and everyone is ready to lay it on the line for each other.”

With a Strong Foundation, the Nationals Seek a Crowning Achievement

WASHINGTON — When Major League Baseball finally returned here for the 2005 season, this must have been the vision: a perennial winner with a roster of stars in a ballpark that sparked a neighborhood building boom.

“That was absolutely the dream,” said Jim Bowden, the Nationals’ first general manager after their move from Montreal. “When I came over, the team was owned by 30 clubs and run by the commissioner’s office. They wanted to find an owner that had the resources, lived in the D.C. area and had the pockets to build world championship-caliber teams.”

Under the principal owner Ted Lerner, the Nationals have spent lavishly, won consistently and watched new construction rise steadily around Nationals Park. But nervous tension in early autumn is also part of the team’s identity.

The playoffs have come to Nationals Park five times in eight seasons, including on Tuesday with the Milwaukee Brewers coming for the National League wild card game. Yet the Nationals have still never reached the championship series.

“The blueprint’s been pretty impressive,” Bowden said. “The only thing they’re lacking is winning a series and winning a world championship, which they’re still trying to do for Ted.”

This year’s effort seemed doomed through the first 50 games of the season. The Nationals were 19-31 through May 23, yet rallied to become the first team since the 1914 Boston Braves to finish with at least 93 victories after falling 12 games under .500. Those Braves beat the Philadelphia A’s in one of the greatest upsets in World Series baseball history.

These Nationals are a hard sell as an underdog. Their payroll of roughly $195 million ranks among the highest in the majors, and their three top starters — Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin — are signed for a combined $525 million.

The trio was worth the money this season, posting a 43-20 record and a 3.18 earned run average among the three of them. The Nationals outbid the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies last winter for Corbin, signing him for six years and $140 million. The Phillies wound up spending $330 million for 13 years to sign Bryce Harper, the former N.L. most valuable player who spent his first seven season with the Nationals. Harper had a strong year, but weak pitching doomed the Phillies to a .500 record.

ImageThe Nationals earned a home playoff game for the fifth time in eight years. 

CreditWill Newton/Getty Images

Even after Harper’s departure, the Nationals were left with franchise cornerstones to spare. Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit .319 with 34 homers and a major league-high 126 runs batted in, and left fielder Juan Soto nearly matched him, at .282-34-110.

Soto does not turn 21 until Oct. 25 — the day of Game 3 of the World Series — but still put together a season with few precedents. Soto’s .949 on-base-plus slugging percentage made him just the 10th player in major league history with at least a .900 O.P.S. at age 20, joining some of the game’s most prolific hitters: Mel Ott, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Cap Anson, Al Kaline, Jimmie Foxx, Mike Trout, Frank Robinson and Mickey Mantle.

“I see all that stuff because they show me, and I feel really happy because of all the work I did in the off-season is coming out now, it’s getting paid back,” Soto said. “I feel really happy and really proud of myself, but it’s not over yet.”

Neither, the Nationals hope, is their relationship with Rendon, who is 29 and eligible for free agency after the World Series. The Washington Post reported Monday that in September the team had offered Rendon a seven-year contract worth $210 to $215 million, but Rendon seems almost certain to test the market.

“If you’re giving me the opportunity and saying I’m this close from going to go car shopping from multiple lots, instead of staying in one lot, I mean, what would you do?” Rendon said in July, in a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan.

The Nationals tried a similar strategy with Harper at the end of last season, offering him a 10-year, $300 million contract with deferrals that would have paid Harper until he turned 60. When Harper turned it down, as expected, the Nationals immediately moved on.

The Rendon proposal, at least, is meant to be an opening offer, not a final one, with deferrals to be paid out much sooner. And the Lerner family and General Manager Mike Rizzo have made several deals with Scott Boras, who represents Harper but also Scherzer, Strasburg and Jayson Werth, the former outfielder.

Back in 2010, the Nationals startled the industry with a seven-year, $126 million deal for Werth, who had been a complementary player for the Phillies teams that ruled the N.L. East. But he led the Nationals to first place in his second season, helped the team win three more division crowns, and now has his name in the franchise ring of honor along the upper deck facade.

Four other signs, above the right field bullpen, commemorate the division championships. All of those seasons ended in early October heartbreak. The Nationals were back for more on Tuesday, trying again to complete the vision that brought them here.

‘Just Come Out and Say It’: Players Want Answers on the Changing Ball

CLEVELAND — Justin Verlander threw the first pitch of the All-Star Game here on Tuesday night, missing on a fastball before eventually retiring Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich on a liner to first. To Verlander, the ace of the Houston Astros, the baseball used in the majors now seems to be filled with plutonium, part of a secret plot by the league to increase home runs. The numbers support his suspicions, with homers at an all-time high.

Yet the man with his signature stamped on the baseball — Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. — insisted before Tuesday’s game, which the American League went on to win, 4-3, that there was no conspiracy. In fact, Manfred said, his bosses want fewer home runs, not more.

“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction, for an alteration in the baseball,” Manfred said, mentioning that Major League Baseball had commissioned an independent study last year to prove it.

“You know, the biggest flaw in that logic is that baseball somehow wants more home runs,” he added. “If you sat in an owner’s meeting and listened to people talk about the way our game’s being played, that is not the sentiment among the owners for whom I work. There is no desire on the part of ownership to increase the number of home runs in the game. To the contrary, they’re concerned about how many we have.”

[What’s Justin Verlander’s version of a performance enhancer? 12 hours of sleep.]

That number has never been higher. Major leaguers — who are subjected to strict in-season and off-season testing for performance-enhancing drugs — are on a pace to hit more than 6,600 home runs this season, which would obliterate the record 6,105, set in 2017. Four of the top five home run seasons in history have occurred in the last four seasons.

Pitchers are striking hitters out in record numbers, too. But they want answers about the ball they’re using to do it.

Verlander, who leads the majors with 26 homers allowed, said on Monday that M.L.B. had turned the game into a “joke.” He asserted that because the league owns Rawlings — which manufactures the baseballs — it had “100 percent” juiced the balls on purpose.

“I’m not going to disagree with him,” the Mets’ Jacob deGrom said, adding later: “I think that’s what they thought fans wanted to see. So if that was the case, I guess it’s not bad for the game. But as a pitcher, I don’t think any of us like giving up home runs.”

ImageCommissioner Rob Manfred before the Home Run Derby on Monday. 

CreditTannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock

Charlie Morton, a Tampa Bay Rays right-hander, said he noticed in 2015 that he suddenly seemed to get less sink on his pitches. He adjusted by altering his pitching style — he now thrives with high fastballs and curves — but would still like to know why the ball changed.

“If the ball’s different, and intentionally different, I guess the one thing I would ask is just some transparency,” Morton said. “If the league is trying to do something different and get a different result with balls in play, I think for history’s sake and for the integrity of the game that there would be transparency.”

Statistics also affect players’ paychecks, through free agency and salary arbitration, noted Jake Odorizzi, a right-hander for the Minnesota Twins, one of four teams on a pace to break the season home run record set last year by the Yankees. Odorizzi would welcome an explanation from M.L.B.

“If there’s something that’s potentially altering that, just come out and say it,” Odorizzi said. “I think, as players, we’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve accepted it.”

Manfred insisted that the league has been open about the issue, pointing repeatedly to his study, which determined that while the ball was not harder, it was producing less drag through the air. The league has struggled to identify the cause of that phenomenon, but it has tried; M.L.B. officials said their researchers had even developed lasers to study the height and width of the ball’s seams.

Yet because every ball is made with natural materials and hand-sewn in Costa Rica, they said, an array of variables is always in play. The league wants stricter manufacturing parameters to produce more consistency, but says that is not easy to achieve.

“You need to appreciate how small the variations are in the manufacturing process that can produce a change in the way the ball performs,” Manfred said, adding later, “The challenge for us is to get better control over that variation, tighten those specifications and get more comfortable with how that ball’s going to perform from year to year.”

Tony Clark, the executive director of the union, said players want to know what the league plans to do about the obvious changes to the ball. The Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, said players deserve to know what is happening.

“With the ball changing as much as it has over the past handful of years, the players have had no say in that whatsoever,” Scherzer said. “We’re left, as players, wondering why the ball can change that much, that fast, and have that big of a result.”

Image

CreditFred Thornhill/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Scherzer has not been affected much personally, allowing just nine homers in 19 starts and leading the majors in strikeouts with 181. The active leader in home runs allowed, the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia, said he was not concerned about the trend but did see a downside to the modern all-or-nothing game.

“The ball is a little different — whether it’s the seams, it feels a little different in your hands,” said Sabathia, who was here to be saluted by the fans in Cleveland, where he started his 19-year career. “But I enjoy offense. I want to see runs scored, and my kids love it. The thing is, though, there’s not a lot of contact on some of these teams. So it’s either home run or strikeout, and it’s kind of hard to watch.”

To thrive as a business, of course, M.L.B. needs to be as appealing to watch as possible. And while their research on the ball continues, for now their answers sound like a maddening recording from a utility company: We are aware of the problem, and we’re working hard to fix it.

In the meantime, home runs and strikeouts just keep rising. For better or worse, this is what the game has become.

“Unless there’s a solution, I don’t worry about it,” said Clayton Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers. “There’s a lot of people that pose problems without solutions, and that just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Let’s figure it out — or let’s deal with it and move on.”

Something Less Than Max Scherzers Best Is Enough Against Mets

Max Scherzer made a final pitch to start the All-Star Game on his own mound, Anthony Rendon hit two homers and Bryce Harper also connected, leading the Washington Nationals over the Mets, 5-4, Thursday night.

Washington won for just the sixth time in 17 games and nudged back over .500 at 47-46.

Scherzer (12-5) did not dominate over his seven innings, but managed to tie Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola for the National League lead in wins. He struck out five, boosting his league-leading total to 182.

Scherzer gave up three runs and five hits, including home runs by nemesis Jose Bautista and Kevin Plawecki. The right-hander was met on the top step of the dugout by manager Dave Martinez after the seventh and, after a short discussion, his evening was over.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner exited with a 2.41 E.R.A., and perfectly lined up to pitch on regular rest next Tuesday night in the All-Star Game at Nationals Park. Fans at Citi Field would rather see Mets ace Jacob deGrom make the start — he tops the majors with a 1.68 E.R.A., but is just 5-4 in 19 starts because of poor run support.

Rendon hit a two-run homer off Steven Matz (4-7) in the first and added a solo drive in the third. His fourth career multihomer performance gave him six homers in 13 games.

Rendon singled in the seventh and Harper, already assured a starting spot in the All-Star outfield, hit his 23rd homer to make it 5-2.

Bautista hit an R.B.I. single in the first and a solo homer in the fourth. He is 11 for 23 lifetime against Scherzer with two home runs and four doubles.

Plawecki homered in the seventh off the Washington ace. Kelvin Herrera relieved to begin the eighth and gave up a solo homer to Asdrubal Cabrera.

Ryan Madson closed for his fourth save.

INSIDE PITCH

Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has been taking grounders at first base while rehabbing at the spring complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The oft-injured slugger has not played in the majors since mid-May, and the Mets think a position shift might ease the toll on his legs. The team is seeing whether moving to first might be an option for next season. … Noah Syndergaard (4-1, 3.06) is expected to come off the disabled list for his first big league start since May 25. The 2016 All-Star has been sidelined by a strained ligament in his right index finger. Manager Mickey Callaway is looking forward to lining up a healthy rotation led by their ace deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler after the break, when the Mets open up at Yankee Stadium. “Obviously, the first half was not a success and it was unacceptable,” Callaway said.

A Bruising American League Outfield Headlines the Rosters for the AllStar Game

Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts form a dream outfield for the American League. Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer make up a not-so-gracious welcome committee for the National League.

Power in the center of power. A capital-sized All-Star Game.

Baseball unveiled the rosters for its midsummer showcase on Sunday night, featuring an imposing lineup for the A.L. and Harper in his usual spot at his home ballpark in Washington.

Trout is working on perhaps the best season of his stellar career with the Los Angeles Angels. Judge has 25 homers and 58 R.B.I. for the Yankees, and Betts is batting .342 with 22 homers for the major league-leading Boston Red Sox.

But that’s just the beginning for the A.L. Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the reigning A.L. M.V.P., led the fan balloting with 4.8 million votes. Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado will make the short trip down to Washington for the game on July 17 with speculation increasing about his future ahead of the trade deadline.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, Red Sox designated hitter J. D. Martinez and Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos round out the A.L.’s starting lineup.

Harper was voted a starter for the fourth straight year. Harper, who is eligible for free agency after this season, is batting just .218 for the disappointing Nationals, but he has 21 homers and 50 R.B.I.

Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp will join Harper in the N.L. outfield. Markakis has been a key performer for the surprising Atlanta Braves and made it for the first time in 13 major league seasons. Kemp’s return to the Los Angeles Dodgers has been a smashing success.

The Chicago Cubs will have two starters after catcher Willson Contreras and second baseman Javier Baez each won a close race at their position in fan balloting. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford round out the N.L. starting lineup.

Scherzer was selected for the sixth time. Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is 11-5 with a 2.33 E.R.A. and could get the start in his home ballpark.

Jacob deGrom, 5-4 with a league-leading 1.79 earned-run average, will be the only Mets representative on the N.L. team.