MELBOURNE, VIC -- Musical, magical rhythms enter Melbourne Ballpark on Thursday, 22 December for the 2016 Australian Baseball League All-Star Game presented by Boral.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:30pm AEDT, and preceding the game will be a concert in the form of the third incarnation of Levi's® All-Star Music Sessions, featuring REMI and The Pretty Littles. This year's game is the sixth matchup between Team Australia, represented by top Aussie baseballers, and the World All-Stars, comprised of the best international performers from the first half of the season.
Team Australia has shown a flair for the dramatic in the past two ASGs, winning last year on Trent D'Antonio's walk-off bunt single, and taking the 2014 matchup on an eight-run rally in the eighth inning. The World All-Stars won the inaugural ASG 8-5, but Australia levelled the series the next year with a 6-4 win. But the imports fought back, shutting out the Southern Thunder 6-0 in the 2013 game. The Southern Thunder's two recent wins gave them a 3-2 lead in the all-time series.
Australia also enter the ASG riding a six-game home soil win streak, dating back to the team's 5-0 shutout victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Team Australia Challenge prior to the 2014 MLB Opening Series. The streak includes two ABL ASG wins, and Australia's outstanding performance in last February's World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Sydney. This game is the national team's final game on home soil before the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
By the numbers, the 2016 matchup features the best of the best, including nine of the top 10 hitters in the league and seven of the top 10 pitchers. However, if you look more closely at the season stats of the two sides, the World All-Stars actually have a slight edge.
On offence, they're out-hitting the Aussies .300 to .292, and also have a slight edge in ERA (2.08 to 2.87). However, Team Australia's batters have scored more runs (162 to 114) and gotten on base at a higher rate (.386 to .362). Aussie catcher Robbie Perkins leads the league in hitting (.389), and sitting 12 points behind Perkins is veteran Luke Hughes (.377), the only player to participate in all six ABL ASGs so far.
Pitching is where the World All-Stars could shine the brightest. Active Major Leaguer and former Kansas City Royals World Series starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie is set to make his first ABL appearance in the ASG. In addition to Guthrie, the World All-Stars boast the top two pitchers in the league in Melbourne's Keisuke Honda (4-0, 1.21) and Mark Hamburger (3-0, 1.82).
Prediction: Australia win
Players to watch: Josh Altmann (WOR), Ronald Acuna (WOR), Loek van Mil (WOR), Zech Lemond (WOR), Kyle Perkins (AUS), Aaron Whitefield (AUS), Steven Kent (AUS), Dushan Ruzic (AUS)