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Commentary: Reds, Indians need more from All Stars to make run at playoffs

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Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips throws to first base after forcing out the Atlanta Braves' Reed Johnson (7) in the eighth inning at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, July 13, 2013. The Braves won, 5-2.

Courtesy of MCT

Major League Baseball’s All Star Game featured both up-and-coming players making their first appearance in addition to veterans who have been there many times before. This year’s Mid-Summer Classic saw a pair of Cleveland Indians who had never been invited to the game before and a trio of Cincinnati Reds that have been the part of festivities multiple times. The American League defeated the National League 3-0 Tuesday night, to earn home-field advantage in the World Series.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has made an incredible turnaround after a tough start to the season. At the end of April, there was probably not a single Tribe fan who believed he would get invited to the All Star Game. With a batting average hovering around .200 at the beginning of May, it was difficult not to think 2013 may be a long season for Kipnis.

However, the second baseman solidified his spot on the American League All Star roster with a terrific month of June, hitting a scorching .419 and posting an on-base percentage of .517, both of which led the AL. Kipnis leads the Indians in hits, RBI, batting average and on-base percentage at the break, and if the they have any chance of making the playoffs they are going to need more of the same from him.

Aside from Kipnis, Justin Masterson is Cleveland’s other All Star. Also making his first appearance in the game, Masterson has been the one pitcher for Cleveland that the team has received consistency from during the first half.

For the Reds, first baseman Joey Votto seemingly has cemented himself as a member of the All Star Game since winning NL MVP in 2010. He leads the National League with a .434 on-base percentage and is seventh in the league with a .318 batting average. The Reds star leads the league in on-base percentage because his plate discipline is something like we have never seen before, and he refuses to swing at pitches out of the zone.

Three-time Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips typically earns a trip to the All Star game due to his defensive abilities, but his bat is also a good reason he played in New York Tuesday. Phillips’ 74 RBI is second in the NL, and that kind of production from a second baseman can be attributed to him consistently hitting fourth in the lineup, a spot that is designated for driving in runs. Reds manager Dusty Baker has put Phillips in the leadoff or second spot in the lineup in years past, but leaving him to bat after Votto is where he really thrives.

Aroldis Chapman made his second appearance at the Mid-Summer Classic Tuesday night. Known as the “Cuban Missile” across baseball for his fastball that tops out over 100 miles per hour, the Reds’ closer is on pace to finish the season with over 40 saves. If it were not for the bullpen in front of him blowing leads prior to the ninth inning, Chapman would easily have another five saves to his name.

Kipnis doubled in a run in his only plate appearance Tuesday night, and Masterson was not sent to the hill by manager Jim Leyland. Votto and Phillips both went 0-2, and Chapman was able to show off his skills in the seventh inning as he struck out Adam Jones to end the inning.

Regardless of each players production Tuesday night, it’s clear that both Cleveland and Cincinnati need their All Stars to keep playing like All Stars as they push toward the playoffs.

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