- - Sunday, July 8, 2018

Outfielder Bryce Harper sat in the middle of the podium, having changed into street clothes after Sunday’s game at Nationals Park against the Marlins.

To his left was ace pitcher Max Scherzer, who had won his 11th game Saturday night. And to the right was closer Sean Doolittle, still in uniform even though he wasn’t called on to pitch in a blowout loss to Miami.

The three members of the Nationals were named to the National League All-Star team on Sunday for the game that will be played July 17 at Nationals Park.

Shortstop Trea Turner could make the NL team in a final vote for the team’s 32nd spot. He is going against Jesus Aguilar of the Brewers, Brandon Belt of the Giants, Matt Carpenter of the Indians and Max Muncy of the Dodgers for the last spot.

Dave Martinez, the first-year skipper of the Nationals, has said he will be a bench coach for the N.L. squad under Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

While Harper (21 homers) and Scherzer were seen as slam-dunk picks, despite a batting average of .218 for Harper, the selection of Doolittle was no sure thing even though he has 22 saves.

Doolittle, a former University of Virginia two-way player, was pitching for the Oakland A’s at this time a year ago. He made the American League All-Star team in 2014 when the game was played in Minnesota.

“For me, where I was a year ago, I wasn’t even the closer on that team,” said Doolittle, traded to the Nationals from Oakland on July 16, 2017. “Now to represent this team and this city in front of these fans for the All-Star game is incredible. It has not sunk in yet, to be honest. It means a lot to make the All-Star team. It is a special honor.”

The spotlight will shine much brighter on starting outfielder Harper and Scherzer, the latter of whom could get the nod to be the starting pitcher.

Harper had agreed to take part in the Home Run Derby on July 16 at Nationals Park since he was named to the National League All-Star squad. He said he looks forward to having his father pitch to him during the Home Run Derby, which was won last year by Aaron Judge of the Yankees.

“I am excited to represent the Nationals in D.C. I am excited for the fans,” Harper said. “It is going to be a lot of fun. D.C. is a great place to have it in. A lot of good places to eat (near the park), a lot of places to relax. Just an amazing place to have a game. Take advantage of everything – not just baseball.”

Harper (2,335,733 votes) finished third among outfielders in votes in the National League back of Nick Markakis of the Braves and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was the top vote-getter in the National League while Houston’s Jose Altuve, the reigning MVP of his league, got the most votes in the American League. The American League will have eight different teams represented in the starting lineup.

Manny Machado of the Orioles held off challenges from several other shortstops, including Carlos Correa of the world champion Astros, to get the starting nod at that position.

Scherzer is on track to pitch on Thursday in New York against the Mets and that would put him on regular rest to pitch in the All-Star game on July 17 at Nationals Park.

The St. Louis native has been named to the past five All-Star games but did not pitch in 2015. He was the starting pitcher for the American League while with the Detroit Tigers in 2013.

“Whenever I get to pitch it will be awesome,” Scherzer said. “It has always been cool to see the hometown fans get behind the hometown All-Stars. I think this will be an experience like any other we have been a part of.”

Scherzer was the National League starter last season in Miami, and he has won the past two Cy Young Awards in the National League and three overall.

Harper is 2-for-9 in five All-Star appearances, his first coming as a rookie at Kansas City in 2012. He also appeared in the Midsummer Classic in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The All-Star selection continues a memorable few days for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. He had a career-high five hits against the Nationals on Sunday as Miami rolled 10-2.

“It feels nice to finally break that barrier,” he said. “It’s definitely been a dream of mine obviously for my whole life to play in the All-Star game so it’s something I’m definitely going to cherish and something I really look forward to.”

And it gets even better for Realmuto, a reported trade target of the Nationals in the past.

“Like today, getting five hits today, getting told I was making the All-Star team and then none of that compares with the fact I’m gonna have a child in the next day or two. Definitely an exciting week for me to say the least,” he said at Nationals Park.

In a few days, Realmuto will be back at Nationals Park, but this time as a member of the home team.


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