1) Starting pitching:  The National League boasts a wicked combination of Adam Wainwright (11-4, 1.79), Clayton Kershaw (10-2, 1.85), Johnny Cueto (9-6, 2.03) and Zack Greinke (11-5, 2.73).  Although Cueto is scheduled to start Sunday for the Reds in Pittsburgh, NL manager Mike Matheny will still have a stable of thoroughbreds to choose from.

2) Bullpen:  The top four saves leaders in baseball are in the NL.  Craig Kimbrel and Francisco Rodriguez lead the way with 27 apiece (Trevor Rosenthal also has 27, but he is not an All-Star).  Fireballer Aroldis Chapman is also on the roster to potentially close the game.  That said, it’s the setup men that became the most intriguing maneuver from NL manager Mike Matheny, rather than loading up on ace starters.  Matheny invited Pirates lefty Tony Watson (5-0, 0.84 ERA) and his own reliever Pat Neshek (3-0, 0.73), a Minneapolis native.  By adding these late-inning specialists, is Matheny managing to win this game?  You bet he is.

3) Lineup:  Matheny will employ arguably the most athletic outfield in the history of the All-Star Game, with Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen and Yasiel Puig capable of making any play, anytime, offensively or defensively.  But this team has some run-producers as well, with Troy Tulowitski (.350, 20, 49) and Paul Goldschmidt (.312, 16, 61) leading the charge.

4) Bench:  The NL can call on Giancarlo Stanton (.299, 21, 63) anytime to provide instant power from the dugout.  And as painful as the Yadier Molina thumb injury (8-12 weeks) is for Cardinals fans, the NL can move Jonathan Lucroy to starting catcher and utilize one of baseball’s best first-half hitters.


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