Blue Jays know importance of All-Star Game

Blue Jays know importance of All-Star Game

SAN DIEGO -- They're taking in the entire experience, the atmosphere, the interviews and interactions with their All-Star teammates, but the Blue Jays are well aware of what is at stake on tonight in the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard at Petco Park.

Home-field advantage in the World Series is on the line, and after Toronto reached the American League Championship Series in 2015, the five Blue Jays All-Stars understand the importance of gaining any edge in the postseason.

The Blue Jays enter the All-Star break at 51-40, tied with the Red Sox for second place, two games behind the Orioles in the American League East. A year ago at this time, Toronto was 45-46, before going on to roll in the second half.

"Our goal is still to win the division," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "We feel very comfortable. … We feel like we're just starting to play our type of baseball. We're very comfortable in the position that we're in moving forward."

Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Sanchez, Michael Saunders and Marco Estrada, who is injured, are the Blue Jays' five All-Stars.

"It's an incredible feeling, not only for me, but the whole organization, to have five guys represent a team," Estrada said. "It just goes to show you what type of team we have, how talented this team is, and there still could have been other guys who could have made this team. There are a lot of guys playing extremely well."

AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals indicated at his news conference on Monday that Sanchez is expected to pitch in the area of the fourth or fifth innings.

"I came here to pitch," the right-hander said. "I didn't come here to watch."

Sanchez strikes out the side

National and AL players met with the media on Monday, and worked out briefly at Petco Park.

"Just to be here around this group of talent is unbelievable," Sanchez said. "Going into the second half, we're ready to go. Obviously, this is a big thing. Being so close last year, we saw how much home-field advantage meant. I'm sure these guys are ready to play."

Saunders is thrilled to be added to the roster after winning the AL Final vote. The 29-year-old left fielder is from Canada, and he appreciates the support of his country and organization.

"Obviously, I found out a little bit later than some of the guys, but the best way I can describe it is, with the fan support, I kind of felt love from Canada," Saunders said. "We always take care of our own. Being Canadian, playing in Toronto, the organization and fans were very supportive, obviously. I'm very appreciative of it."

Saunders headed to All-Star Game

Encarnacion is tied for the third-most RBIs in franchise history prior to the All-Star break with 80. He's on pace for 144, which would be one shy of the club record set by Carlos Delgado in 2003.

"I'm really honored, and I'm really happy for them," Encarnacion said of his fellow Blue Jays All-Stars. "They deserve it. They've had a great year."

Donaldson became the sixth player in American League history to score at least 80 runs and hit at least 20 home runs prior to the All-Star break. The reigning AL MVP is making his third consecutive trip to the Midsummer Classic.

When the third baseman first appeared in the All-Star Game, it was Derek Jeter's last All-Star appearance. Tonight, Donaldson again is a teammate of a retiring legend. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has previously announced this is his final season.

"My first All-Star Game was Derek Jeter's last one," Donaldson said. "I know what that meant to me. I remember running out on the field with Jeter. I was ecstatic to be out there.

"For Big Papi, I've got to know him over the last two years, there is not a better guy in this game. He's awesome. Great personality. I think his personality is great for the game of baseball. If this really is his last year, like he says, the game of baseball is definitely going to miss him, and I'm glad to be here for his last All-Star Game."

All-Star Game coverage begins tonight at 7:30 ET on FOX.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.