Major League Baseball will hold its 83rd annual All-Star Game in Kansas City on Tuesday, and two Jewish players are set to participate.
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler were named to the game via a vote of their fellow players, managers and coaches, and will appear as reserves for the National League and American League, respectively. The league that wins the All-Star Game will earn home field advantage for its champion in the World Series this fall.
As the season reaches its midway point, Kinsler and the Rangers are looking like they could benefit from that advantage. Texas boasts the best record in the majors at 50-32, leading the AL's West Division by five games over the Anaheim Angels. Kinsler—who has hit .333 (8-for-24) over the last week—has been a key contributor, leading the team and the major leagues in runs scored (61) while ranking second on the Rangers with 15 stolen bases (tied for seventh in the AL). Overall, he's hitting .276 with nine home runs and 40 runs batted in.
The Brewers, meanwhile, haven't found the same kind of success after losing Prince Fielder during free agency last winter. They sit fourth in the NL Central with a record of 38-43. Braun, however, has maintained the form that made him the National League's MVP last season. His .309 batting average is down from .332 in 2011, but his on-base percentage has stayed relatively stable at .392 (it was .397 last year), and his 23 home runs in the first half—including three in the last week—lead the National League (he had 33 all last season).
The Brewers have a tough climb ahead in the second half if they hope to return to the playoffs. They trail the NL Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates by seven games and sit six games behind in the wild card race. For now, however, Braun (like Kinsler) will take his place as an All-Star.
Elsewhere around the majors:
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Craig Breslow continues to hold steady as a reliever, maintaining his 3.00 ERA through two outings in the last week. On Saturday, he gave up a run in two innings of mop-up duty in a 10-2 loss to the Brewers, but he came back Monday to strike out two batters in a scoreless inning during a 6-2 loss to the San Diego Padres. Breslow is 2-0 in 33 appearances this season for the Diamondbacks—who are third in the NL West at 39-42—and has 34 strikeouts in 36 innings of work.
New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis has leveled off in the last week after finally getting his batting average over .200. The former Arizona State star has hit 4-for-21 in the last week to bring his average back down to .200 on the nose, but hit his 11th home run of the year in a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. While his average struggles, Davis is a key power hitter for the Mets, sharing the team lead in home runs with 11 and ranking second in RBI with 45. The Mets are second in the NL East at 44-38.
Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman hasn't had his best form in the last week, but he did get his second win as a starter last Thursday, giving up four runs over five innings in a 7-6 win over the Oakland A's. He gave up four runs and picked up a no-decision on Wednesday, pitching the first six innings of a 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox in extra innings. Feldman is 2-6 this season with a 6.11 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 15 games for the Rangers.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish has struggled at the plate in the last week, hitting 5-for-24. He did make an impact on Sunday, hitting a double in his only at-bat and scoring the winning run against the Seattle Mariners. In 16 games this season, Kalish is hitting .231 with four RBI and a stolen base for the Red Sox, who are tied for fourth in the AL East at 42-40.
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has had a solid week, hitting .291 (7-for-24) with six RBI, four runs scored and two stolen bases. For the season, he's hitting .276 with 11 homers, 49 RBI and 20 steals (second in the AL) for the Indians, who are second in the AL Central at 42-39.
San Diego Padres pitcher Jason Marquis has found difficulty in the last week after finding early success on the mound with his new team. The native New Yorker has given up nine runs in his last two starts, including five in six innings in a 10-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Friday. Things didn't get much better on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks—Marquis gave up four runs in six-and-a-third innings against the Diamondbacks—but the Padres scored four runs in the last two innings to pick up the win, a no-decision for Marquis. In six games since coming to the Padres from the Minnesota Twins—where he was 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA in seven starts—Marquis is 1-4 with a 3.49 ERA.
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Michael Schwimer has settled in as a solid part of the Phillies' bullpen. He threw two scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins last weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. That brought his ERA down to 3.72 with 14 strikeouts and an 0-1 record in 18 appearances for the Phillies, who are fifth in the NL East at 37-46.
Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis saw his honeymoon with his new team come to an end very quickly in a four-game series against the New York Yankees. Youkilis hit just 1-for-14 against his old rivals, and his average fell as low as .232. He's bounced back in the last two days against the Rangers, however, going 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBI, capped off when he drove in the winning run in a 5-4 extra-innings win on Wednesday. Since being traded from Boston, where he hit .233 with four homers and 14 RBI in 42 games, Youkilis is hitting .306 with a homer and nine RBI in as many games for the White Sox, who lead the AL Central with a record of 44-37.
J-Connection: Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Craig Breslow, Ike Davis, Scott Feldman, Ryan Kalish, Jason Marquis, Michael Schwimer and Kevin Youkilis are Jewish. Jason Kipnis is a practicing Roman Catholic, but his father is Jewish.