07/06/2003 6:09 PM ET
All-Star spot saved for Wagner
Kent places second in player vote
Cast your ballot in the etopps All-Star Final Vote
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
AL All-Star roster
NL All-Star roster
HOUSTON -- After plenty of speculation regarding which players had a legitimate chance to hop a plane to Chicago next weekend, it turns out Billy Wagner will be the Houston Astros' lone representative in the 2003 All-Star Game slated to take place July 15 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Wagner was named to the team, along with fellow closers John Smoltz of the Braves and Eric Gagne of the Dodgers, as a result of the votes by Major League players, coaches and managers. Jeff Kent placed second in voting by his peers, behind Montreal's Jose Vidro, who will represent the NL as the backup second baseman. The Braves' Marcus Giles was named to the starting lineup by the fans.
Manager Dusty Baker selected the Mets' Armando Benitez and Pittsburgh's Mike Williams to round out the NL relief corps.
This will be Wagner's third All-Star appearance. He represented the National League in the 1999 Mid-Summer Classic in Boston and the 2001 contest in Seattle. Wagner appeared in both games, totalling one inning with two strikeouts.
"I'm definitely honored," Wagner said. "There's a lot of guys that probably could have made it off this team or should have made it out of the bullpen alone. I'm honored as can be with a situation like this."
The 31-year-old southpaw is in the midst of one of the finest seasons of his eight-year big league career. Through the Astros' first 87 games, Wagner has a 1-3 record and a 2.47 ERA with 22 saves in 25 opportunities. He allowed 13 earned runs over 47 1/3 innings pitched with 13 walks and 61 strikeouts.
Wagner, the final pitcher used in the Astros' six-pitcher no-hitter over the Yankees on June 11, enjoyed a dominant stretch from May 2 through June 17, during which he allowed two earned runs over 23 1/3 innings for a 0.77 ERA with 16 saves, 12 hits allowed, two walks and 33 strikeouts.
The club's all-time saves leader is ranked fifth among all left-handed relievers on the MLB list with 203 career saves. A 42-save season would allow him to pass Sparky Lyle (222) to move into fourth place on the all-time list, behind John Franco (422), Randy Myers (347) and Dave Righetti (252). Wagner is on pace to surpass his club record of 39 saves, accomplished in both '99 and '01.
For two days in mid-July, Wagner will put stats and saves out of his mind and just enjoy the excitement of the All-Star festivities.
"It's fun. It's a different stage," he said. "You're out there with a lot of your peers and guys that you get to watch on TV. Maybe you'll get to learn a few things too."
Wagner was one of many candidates from the Astros to receive All-Star consideration. Jeff Bagwell and Kent were leading in fan voting for most of the season before Colorado's Todd Helton surged ahead in first base balloting. Kent was neck-and-neck with Giles, but Kent's recent stint on the disabled list likely played a role in the vote dropoff.
Right-hander Octavio Dotel was another deserving candidate, but as a setup man, was a longshot to make the team. The closer-in-waiting is 6-3 with a 1.99 ERA and over 43 games. He has 56 strikeouts over 49 2/3 innings.
For the first time since his first full season in 2001, Lance Berkman will not be going to the All-Star Game. The left fielder has batted over .300 in May and June after a poor April in which he hit .208.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.