Houston (CBS HOUSTON) — Unsurprisingly, Jose Altuve is headed to the 2016 MLB All-Star Game.
And just like last season, he’ll have at least one teammate to keep him company at the Midsummer Classic.
With a career year to date, Altuve was a no-brainer for his fourth All-Star selection and will start at second base for the American League squad. Teammate Will Harris earned his first career All-Star nod after assuming the closer’s role in June, and rightfielder George Springer will be one of five players in the “Final Vote,” which will be determined via fan vote by Friday, July 8.
If Springer is selected, it would be the first time since 2005 that the Astros landed at least three players on the All-Star team and the 10th time in franchise history.
Houston’s diminutive second baseman couldn’t have been more of a lock, garnering the fan vote by a wide margin over Seattle’s Robinson Cano.
Altuve is the American League starter at second base for the second year in a row and said he is not taking yet another appearance for granted, either.
“It means a lot. It’s a dream for every player to be in the All-Star Game,” Altuve said. “It is great to be playing out there with guys like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper… it’s completely true no matter if it’s your first one, second, third, whatever. It’s always good to be a part of that club.”
Entering Tuesday, Altuve’s scorching first half included a .353 batting average, 14 home runs (one off his career high), 21 steals and 24 doubles, all while playing every game. He’s third among AL players in WAR (Wins Above Replacement player), trailing only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson.
“Jose is one of the best examples of what we have going, so I hope he gets all the accolades he deserves,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “If he keeps playing at this rate, then we’re seeing one of the blossoming superstars in this game. I’m proud of him as an Astro and what he represents for us and the impact he has.”
He’s well on pace to a third straight 200-hit season and, now, he already has a third consecutive All-Star selection.
But Altuve said before Tuesday’s game that he desperately hoped some teammates would join him, like Dallas Keuchel did in Cincinnati last year.
“We live in a good moment right now,” Altuve said. “We’re playing really (well). This is a good team, and there’s more than one guy here that deserves to be in this game.”
He got his wish, as Harris and potentially Springer will make their Midsummer Classic debuts.
Harris barely missed the team despite a strong first half last season, and Hinch vehemently lobbied AL manager Ned Yost for the reliever’s inclusion this time around given Harris’ dominant start to the season.
Entering Tuesday, the right-hander owned a 0.74 ERA in 36 2/3 innings this season, hadn’t allowed an extra base hit and was 8-for-8 in save opportunities since June 5.
Still, hours before learning the news, Harris said the success has been more gratifying for its own sake than the recognition that comes with it.
“I’d be lying if I said it was a major goal of mine,” the LSU product said. “That’s what the offseason is for, to kind of look back on what you’ve accomplished. As of right now, I really haven’t accomplished anything…
“I think it’s just validation of my gameplan and what I’m doing is good enough to get big-league hitters out. The All-Star game is not in the front of my mind at all. When you have a good season, put up good numbers, you want to do it again because you know you’re helping the team and winning a lot of games.”
Springer is still the wild card in terms of making the squad thanks to a strong slugging push during the past six weeks. He’s hit 19 home runs — also one away from his career high — slamming 10 of them since ascending to the leadoff spot in late May.
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The All-Star Final Vote gives fans a chance to vote on the final player selected to both the National and American League squads. Springer joins Ian Kinsler, Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedroia and Michael Saunders on the American League ballot, and fans can vote via text, at MLB.com or on Twitter.
Springer said an All-Star selection would “obviously be special,” and he’d the first Astros outfielder to be an All Star since Michael Bourn in 2011, the year Springer was drafted.