MIAMI -- One by one, they walked into the American League clubhouse on Monday afternoon. That might have been around the time it really and truly hit the Houston Astros how spectacular this first half has been.
"It's crazy, it's special, it's humbling, it's surreal," outfielder George Springer said. "This is the best of the best. To be in the same clubhouse with Chris Sale and Robinson Cano and guys like that, it's just so much fun."
This All-Star break is a moment for the Astros to reflect on a half season in which they went 60-29 and built up a 16 1/2-game lead in the American League West.
Finally, there's this: Six players on the American League All-Star Team, including three starters for Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game.
Jose Altuve leading off and playing second base, Springer batting cleanup and playing left field and shortstop Carlos Correa hitting fifth and playing shortstop.
In addition, pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Chris Devenski are on the AL team. (Keuchel will not pitch as he recovers from a pinched nerve in his neck.)
As good and as deep as the Astros are, they're built around Altuve, Correa and Springer, who are 27, 22 and 27. Altuve will play in his fifth All-Star Game on Tuesday, but it will be the first for the other two.
When Astros manager A.J. Hinch was asked recently how a 16 1/2-game lead might impact his club's competitive edge, he said, "Just watch us play, and you'll understand."
In other words, his players play for the sheer joy of playing and because they've accomplished nothing so far.
"You just go out and play and take each game for what it is," Springer said. "This is a long year. To have 60 wins at the All-Star break is special for us. It puts us in a good position. We understand we will have to have a good strong second half."
Altuve, Correa and Springer are second, fourth and sixth in AL Wins Above Replacement. Springer, Correa and Altuve are second, fourth and fifth in OPS. And in the AL batting race, Altuve (.347) is first, Correa fourth (.325).
"It never gets old," Altuve said. "I'm as happy now as I was in my first All-Star Game. Thank God for the opportunity to be here. It has to be my favorite All-Star Game because so many of my teammates are here. They earned it.