CLEVELAND: Jason Kipnis had just grabbed his bat in the third-base dugout, about to head to the plate to lead off the eighth inning when it was announced at Progressive Field that he and pitcher Justin Masterson were named to the American League All-Star team.
Despite the Tribe absorbing another blowout at the hands of the division-rival Detroit Tigers by a score of 9-4, fans cheered loudly as Kipnis made his way to the plate after the announcement was made on the left-field scoreboard.
But the joy of the moment was temporarily dashed when the Tribe’s second baseman struck out, completing a 0-for-4 day that included two strikeouts and snapped his career-best 16-game hitting streak.
While most people were just finding out about the All-Star nods around 6:45 p.m., Kipnis and Masterson had kept the good news secret for a couple of hours after learning of it just before the 4:05 p.m. got underway.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who will manage the AL team, called him before the game and told him.
“Then we called them both in and let Jim talk to him on the speakerphone,” Francona said.
Leyland’s call was about the only good news for the Indians on an otherwise forgettable day. Kipnis and the right-handed Masterson will be first-timers joining Major League Baseball’s elite group of players for the July 16 All-Star Game at the New York Mets’ Citi Field.
“It’s a tremendous honor and definitely something every player looks forward to experience at least once,” said Kipnis, who entered Saturday’s game batting .300 in just his second full season with the Tribe. “I can’t thank [Leyland] enough for doing it. It’s going to be a really awesome experience that I’m really looking forward to.”
The All-Star announcement came just a few days after Kipnis was named the American League Player of the Month for June. During his scorching month, he batted .419 (39-for-93) with 12 doubles, one triple, four home runs and 25 RBI. He also scored 17 runs, stole nine bases and drew 30 walks in 27 games.
Masterson, 28, is 10-7 with a 3.78 ERA in 19 starts for the Tribe. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder leads the staff in starts, innings pitched, wins, complete games and strikeouts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (128⅔), shutouts (three) and complete games (three), is tied for fourth in wins, tied for first in starts, third in strikeouts (131) and seventh in batting average against (.229).
“To be able to tell Masty, that was really thrilling,” Francona said. “This is a kid that I saw pitch his first game in the big leagues [with the Boston Red Sox in 2008] and now he’s going to go represent us in the All-Star Game.”
Kipnis is the first Indians second baseman selected as an All-Star since Ronnie Belliard in 2004. Masterson is the team’s first starting pitcher tabbed since right-hander Roberto Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, in 2010.
“I just feel honored,” Masterson said. “It’s awesome to have someone else come with you. It’s pretty cool that Jason and I will be representing the Tribe.”
While the All-Star rosters consist of 35 players, only 34 players for each team were announced Saturday evening. The final spot is up for grabs via fan voting.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Aeros blog at http://www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.