For Inciarte, All-Star Game was toast to 1st half

For Inciarte, All-Star Game was toast to 1st half

When it came down to the Braves' All-Star selection, there was not a more deserving candidate than dynamo center fielder Ender Inciarte. As he stepped onto the field at Marlins Park on Tuesday night, Inciarte felt honored to be a part of history.

"Just everything about the game," Inciarte said. "Once you heard the national anthem and you realize that you are standing in line with all those guys, it is really special. I am happy with today and hopefully I can repeat it again."

Inciarte made his All-Star debut in a familiar position in the sixth inning of 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Marlins Park, taking over in center field for Rockies All-Star Charlie Blackmon.

He went 0-for-2 in a game the National League lost 2-1 to the American League in 10 innings. In his first at-bat he hit a liner that was robbed by A's first baseman Yonder Alonso.

Inciarte endured a similar fate in his second at-bat, grounding out after working a full count against Indians reliever Andrew Miller in the 10th inning.

"It was the best and something you dream of as a kid," Inciarte said. "But once you are here it's a fun moment and I am never going to forget about it."

Inciarte has been the catalyst for the Braves this season. He has guided the Braves to a 42-45 record and proven his value as the team's leadoff hitter. He owns a .302 batting average with career-high seven home runs at the break.

A key to Inciarte's dazzling first-half performance may be an improved approach at the plate. He is taking more pitches and staying back on breaking balls. Since the 2016 All-Star break, Inciarte has a .319 batting average with 54 walks and nine home runs. He has also hit the ball to all fields, and owns a .422 slugging percentage in that span.

As a result, this approach has allowed Inciarte to rank third in MLB with 112 hits. He also has 58 runs scored and sports a 2.1 WAR this season. Defensively, he also has a leads the league with three five-star catches according to Statcast™.

Inciarte is trending in the right direction as the Braves try to catch the Washington Nationals in the National League East. The Braves are 9 1/2 games back and have a tough stretch with series against the D-backs, Cubs and Dodgers to close out July.

However, Inciarte believes that the team can make some noise with key players like Freddie Freeman and Sean Rodriguez coming back from injuries.

"We have a lot of faith in our ballclub and our teammates," Inciarte said. "We have been playing good baseball and hopefully at the end of the year, we can surprise a lot of people."

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.