The Orioles' success on the field in the season's first half has translated into strong representation in the All-Star Game, as five players were selected Tuesday for next week's midsummer classic in San Diego. It is the second time in four years the Orioles will have sent five players.
Third baseman Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton were selected for the second straight season, while outfielder Mark Trumbo made his second career All-Star Game in his first season with the Orioles. Catcher Matt Wieters will make his fourth career All-Star Game, selected as a reserve. And right-handed reliever Brad Brach will participate in his first, returning to the place where he began his big league career with the Padres.
The Orioles also sent five players to the All-Star Game in 2013. They have sent at least three players in each of the past five seasons, a far cry from the days when managers were hard-pressed to choose the mandatory one representative from the team.
“It's fun when you get to go with more than one guy,” Wieters said. “My first couple years it would be just one guy who went, but it's a lot more fun when you have multiple guys from a team — four, five, six, seven — as many guys as we can get. It's a good indicator of where we are in the standings but also a good indicator of what other people around the league think about your team.”
Machado, who will be playing in his third All-Star Game in his first four full seasons, was elected by fans to start for the first time. He'll be at third base.
Trumbo, Britton and Wieters were selected by a vote of major league players, while Brach was picked by American League manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals.
“It's good to see that they got there by different ways,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “The fans, the players, the managers picked. All [the players] are very deserving.”
The biggest surprise might have been the selection of Brach, who was a tough fit because of the rule that requires that at least one player be selected from each team.
“It's awesome,” Brach said. “It kind of shows the evolution of the way the game is right now. It's not all about closers. There's a lot of innings pitched in between. ... I think it recognizes that middle innings are huge for games.”
Yost, who built his Royals teams around a strong bullpen, selected Brach, just as he did Orioles setup man Darren O'Day last year. Brach entered Tuesday night 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA in 442/3 innings. Thirty-one of his 36 appearances this season were scoreless. He allowed just five earned runs all year and held opposing hitters to a .150 average.
“I know if I was managing the game, I would want Brad down there,” Showalter said. “He's had a very deserving All-Star [resume]. Last year, they took Darren. Brad's competition was probably as thick as any of them. You look at some of the guys I'm sure they were considering. That was fun because I don't get to deliver much good news.”
Brach, a 2008 42nd-round pick of the Padres, worked his way up from a long-relief role to one of the game's top middle relievers. To notify him of his accomplishment, Showalter called Brach's wife, Jenae, and let her tell him.
“They're able to share it,” Showalter said. “I had a tough time getting her away from Brad so that I could talk to her on the phone. She snuck away to the bathroom.”
Said Wieters of Brach: “He's had a great year. I think his numbers are as good as anybody's out there. We're all happy for him. It's tough to do, for a noncloser to make it. It really speaks to how good of a year he's having. ... It's something that really shows what a strength of this team is, to have that bullpen to close out games.”
Britton, led the AL with 23 saves, having converted all his opportunities. His numbers are dominating. He had a 0.80 ERA, had struck out 41 and had allowed just 18 hits in 332/3 innings of relief. He had held hitters to a .155 average.
“It's pretty cool,” Britton said. “It was obviously a big honor last year to go. I kind of thought about it coming into this year; hopefully, I could perform at that level. To get selected for the second straight year is pretty cool.”
The Orioles' sluggers were also rewarded. Machado was off to the best start of his career, hitting .325/.380/.584 with 29 doubles, 18 home runs and 50 RBIs, while continuing to play exceptional defense at third base and filling in at shortstop for the injured J.J.Hardy for 43 starts this season.
“It's awesome,” said Machado, who led the fan vote at third base from the start. “When the fans actually go out there and put a lot of votes out for you, it's humbling. I'm so excited for right now to go to San Diego and start my first All-Star Game.”
Trumbo, whose acquisition from the Seattle Mariners for backup catcher Steve Clevenger might be the steal of the offseason, led the American League with 24 homers. Trumbo, 30, who was also an All-Star in 2012 with the Los Angeles Angels, is off to the best start of his career.
Trumbo had already eclipsed his home-run total for the 2015 season (22) and was on pace to top his career highs in homers (34) and RBIs.
“I'm proud of it,” Trumbo said. “There is a whole lot of baseball left to go, and more importantly it is about us righting the ship since this last week and getting back on track. That is always a lot more fun than any personal things is the team winning, making the playoffs and doing some of the things we'd like to do.”
Wieters emerged from a weak catching field to earn a reserve spot behind Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Entering Tuesday's game, Wieters was hitting .268/.320/.440 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs in 59 games.
Wieters was voted to start in the 2014 All-Star Game, but couldn't play because he'd had Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction one month earlier. Wieters was off to the best start of his career before the injury, hitting .308/.339/.500 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 26 games.
“It was definitely humbling to get voted in even though I didn't play but a month two years ago,” Wieters said. “The whole year it was hard sitting on the side not watching and not having the opportunity to play. More than anything I'm happy to have the opportunity to go out there and play [now]. ... You can take a little bit of extra satisfaction to be able to get back after having surgery.”
The Orioles had more players in the hunt for All-Star selection.
Right-hander Chris Tillman's 10 wins were tied for third most in the AL. He entered Tuesday's start against the Dodgers with a 10-2 record and a 3.71 ERA. The Orioles had won 14 of Tillman's 17 starts this season.
This is the first time in five years center fielder Adam Jones did not make the All-Star team. The San Diego native has been in every All-Star Game since 2012 and has been magnificent at the plate since moving to the leadoff spot in late May, hitting 11 of his 16 home runs since the switch.
First baseman Chris Davis' 21 homers were tied for fourth most in the AL heading into Tuesday, and surging second baseman Jonathan Schoop had 13 this season while hitting .307/.402/.606 over his past 28 games, raising his batting average to .301.
“I think we could take nine or 10 guys who could go,” Wieters said. “[Davis has] played great. Tillman ... you don't have many starters out there with 10 wins. I could keep going on. Adam, outside of the first month, has turned it on to the point where he's been one of the best center fielders in the game. And Schoopy, if he wasn't at second base, he'd probably [be in the game].”