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MLB All Star Game 2011: Can the National League make it two in a row?

To say the American League has ‘owned’the mid-summer classic would rank right up there with history’s classicunderstatements. MLB Statistics show that they had won 13 straight games before losing to the NationalLeague 3-1 in Anaheim.

The AL All-Stars are favored again in this year’s MLB All-Star Game thisyear drawing an opening number of -120 with the total at 8 on the MLB odds boards. Pregame coveragebegins at 8:00 PM ET on Fox with first-pitch scheduled for the 8:30.

Who do you like?

There’s a strong case to be made for theAmerican League which has got the superior offense lead by major league homerun leader Jose Bautista who has 28 home runs. Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz,Josh Hamilton and Curtis Granderson can all mash. Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltreand Michael Young are all capable reserves.

Jose Bautista also is the current betting odds favorite in this year’s Home Run Derby, listed at 3/1 with Bodog.

No matter how talented the AL hittersare, it’s going to be a chore trying to get much going against an NL pitchingstaff headed Roy Halladay, MLB strikeout leader Clayton Kershaw, 12-game winnerJair Jurrjens, and Tim Lincecum.

The safe play in recent years has beenthe ‘under’ which is 4-0-1 in the past five years and that’s still my preferredchoice. While the NL rates a slight edge on the hill, the AL staff can morethan hold its own with the likes of CC Sabathia, Jerod Weaver and JustinVerlander throwing them down.

Lineup shuffle

The All-Star game has become known forits last minute replacements making it even tougher to handicap. Some playershave legitimate injuries that keep them out of the game while others simplywould prefer the time off to another game and all that goes with it.

The Yankees Derek Jeter is a primeexample of a player who is just worn out. The pressure of chasing 3,000 and allof the stuff that surrounds including the immense media coverage has taken itstoll on the Yankees captain who decided to skip the game. In his case hedeserves a pass.

In case you missed it the first timearound here are the respective starting lineups. The asterisk indicates aplayer who will be out due to injury or illness.

American League

David OrtizC- Alex Avilla, Detroit Tigers

1B- Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox

2B- Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

SS- *Derek Jeter, New YorkYankees (rest)

3B- *Alex Rodriguez, New YorkYankees (knee)

OF- Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

OF- Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

OF- Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

DH- David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

With both Jeter and A-Rod (knee) optingto rest, it appears that Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians) and Adrian Beltre (Rangers)will take their spots in the lineup.

National League

Matt KempC- Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

1B- Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

2B- Richie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers

SS- *Jose Reyes, New York Mets(hamstring)

3B- Placido Polanco, PhiladelphiaPhillies

OF- Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

OF- Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals

OF- Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

Either Cubs rookie Starlin Castro orTroy Tulowitzki of the Rockies will replace Reyes.

Pitching

Following the embarrassing tie game in2002 when both teams ran out of pitchers, baseball has swung back the other wayand now has too many pitchers. Half the guys on each roster won’t play and mostwill never see the bullpen but at least they’re on hand if needed.

The best way to gauge which pitchersyou’ll see in action on Tuesday is actually pretty simple. If they pitched onThursday you’ll probably see them for an inning or two. If they worked anylater in the week the chances grow slimmer that they’ll even warm-up. With fiveAll-Star starting pitchers scheduled to work Sunday that means five additionalpitchers will be named. Any pitcher who works on Sunday is ineligible to playin the game.

Let me count the ways

The way the rosters are assembled hasalso become a watered down process. There’s the fan vote, the players vote, thecoaches vote and if you still haven’t made the team, there’s the ever popularinternet vote to determine the final roster spot. This year Paul Konerko wonpoint and click honors for the AL with Shane Victorino in the NL. HoweverVictorino was placed on the disabled list Friday and will be replaced on the NLsquad by Phoenix native Andre Ethier of the Dodgers.

I’ve got two solidarguments to make for both teams starting with the American League offense andthe National League pitching. Usually good pitching wins out and if that axiomholds true this year, the NL could make it back-to-back wins.