On record-setting night, AL outslugs NL
WASHINGTON -- The ball wasn't flying out of Nationals Park quite as frequently as it did during Bryce Harper's heroic hometown homer binge a night earlier, but it was flying all the same in a dinger-driven, record-breaking 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday night.
In the end, the two standout swats were the back-to-back solo shots hit by Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer -- off a Dodgers pitcher (Thomas Stripling), no less -- in the top of the 10th inning of what became an 8-6 victory for the American League.
Bregman was given the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet for his role in the AL's sixth straight win in the Midsummer Classic.
"I took a cutter down the middle of the first pitch and kind of went into battle mode and just was trying to put a line drive in play, and it left the yard," said Bregman. "It was crazy. It was a lot of fun."
But while the result reflects the AL's recent dominance in this summer showcase and, in a way, the Astros' standing as defending champs, the game itself was reflective of the homer-happy times we live in.
"It was like a regular-season game with the home runs accounting for pretty much everything," said Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ, who made a rare turn in the "closer" role by getting the save in the 10th. "Maybe a few less walks than normal, but pretty standard stuff. We were commenting in the bullpen that that's the way it's going these days."
The two teams combined for 10 homers, destroying the previous record of six that had last been reached in 1971 by some gentlemen named Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Roberto Clemente -- Hall of Famers, all.
Maybe not all of the blasts on this night were hit by guys who are Cooperstown-bound. But Bregman, Springer, Aaron Judge, Michael Trout, Willson Contreras, Trevor Story, Jean Segura, Christian Yelich, Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto collectively put up a performance for the All-Star ages. All but one of the game's 14 runs was driven in by a long ball.
"To kind of empty your tank and hit homers at this event is probably the best thing imaginable," said AL and Astros manager AJ Hinch. "Just to have that kind of emotion that comes with the home run. Especially when the big boys hit it, and especially when the Astros hit it."
The AL seemingly had the game in hand thanks to Segura's pinch-hit three-run homer off Josh Hader in the top of the eighth. But Gennett wowed the crowd and stunned the junior circuit by taking Mariners closer Edwin Diaz deep in the bottom of the ninth to tie it.
To extras it went, and it didn't take long for Bregman and Springer to summon the Fall Classic magic of old. The AL added another run on -- of all things -- a sacrifice fly from Michael Brantley. And though Votto's solo shot in the bottom of the 10th kept things interesting, Happ was able to close it out before any more dinger drama developed.
So this was a night for watching it fly and letting it fly. AL starter Chris Sale threw a fastball clocked by Statcast™ at 100.7 mph -- his fastest pitch since 2010. NL starter Max Scherzer threw his four fastest pitches of the season en route to striking out four in two innings of work.
The All-Stars capitalized on their opportunity to showcase their skills in the nation's capital, and they let their personalities show, too, with in-game selfies and mic'd-up position players. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor felt so bad when he couldn't muscle a drive over the wall that he dropped down and did some pushups. It was that kind of night.
There was even some off-the-field drama developing, with reports swirling about Manny Machado possibly heading to the Dodgers as he played what might have been his last game in a Baltimore Orioles uniform. In an in-game interview with FOX Sports and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Machado acknowledged the not-so-subtle storyline by saying, "If this is the last time, hopefully I treated them well, I did everything I could for the organization."
The AL could be losing one of its signature stars. But it won a game that very much resembled a Derby.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gennett's game-tying homer might get lost to history, given the end result, but he still put himself in a pretty cool spot in the All-Star history books. When he hit his two-run, 396-foot blast off Diaz, Gennett became just the third player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of a Midsummer Classic, joining Ralph Kiner in 1950 and Fred McGriff in '94. That sent the All-Star Game into extras for a second consecutive year. The last time that had happened was 1966-67.
This was the first game in MLB history -- regular season, postseason or All-Star -- in which five players homered for each team.
HE SAID IT
"In the beginning, it was, 'Is anybody going to get a hit other than a homer?' And at the end, it was, 'Are we going to have enough pitching to get out of this mess?'" -- Hinch
Oh yes, they'll meet again. The 90th All-Star Game will take place on July 9, 2019, at Cleveland's Progressive Field, which last hosted the Midsummer Classic in 1997 (when it was still known as Jacobs Field). The AL will take an All-Star edge into that contest, having broken the all-time tie Tuesday by improving to 44-43-2 against the NL.