All-Star Stras saving energy for second half

All-Star Stras saving energy for second half

SAN DIEGO -- Even though the 2016 All-Star Game is in Stephen Strasburg's hometown of San Diego, where he attended college and played under Tony Gwynn, the decision not to pitch on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) came easily. He was just activated from the disabled list on July 3 after an upper back strain forced him to miss two starts last month, and he wants to be completely healthy to start the second half.

"At the time when [the Nationals] said, 'We probably don't want you to pitch in there,' I was 100 percent concerned [with] getting back and pitching for [the Nationals] first," Strasburg said. "I knew I had a couple starts before the break, and I wanted to prepare for that, so I didn't really think about it too much."

Strasburg just completed perhaps the best first half of his career -- an unbeaten 12-0 record and a 2.62 ERA -- with intent to repeat his performance in the second half. The Nationals have aspirations of advancing deep into the playoffs, thanks to Strasburg and the rest of the Nationals All-Stars who joined him in San Diego -- Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer and Wilson Ramos.

Washington leads the NL East by six games, have tied a franchise record for most wins through the first half of the season, and their five All-Stars also set a new franchise record.

"There's nothing better," Harper said about the All-Star Game. "Being able to come out here and enjoy it, not only with the players but with my family as well, there's nothing better. It's a lot of fun to be around the best in baseball, lot of fun to enjoy this week with them, and can't thank the fans enough for getting me in here."

Harper is joined by Murphy and Ramos, both of whom are enjoying breakout years at the plate. Murphy leads the Majors in batting average (.348) and hits (117). Ramos is hitting .330 and leads all catchers with a 139 OPS+.

Scherzer, who was elected to replace Strasburg, said he felt the same level of excitement to be named to this All-Star Game (his fourth) as he had for his first.

"To be able to make the All-Star team this year, there's some really, really, really really good National League pitchers. I mean, there's some really good guys in this league now," Scherzer said with a laugh. "To have [Mets manager] Terry [Collins] pick me to be a part of this team, it really means a lot, because I know how many other guys are deserving to be here. For me to have the opportunity to be a part of this team, as well, means so much, because I know how difficult it is to get here."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.