For as long as I can remember, the MLB All-Star Game has been dominated by the pitchers. Since 2006, the two teams have combined for 10 runs just once, when the American League defeated the National League 8-6 in 10 innings in 2018; in fact, the winning team has scored four runs or fewer seven times in that span, and there have been two shutouts.
Tuesday night offered more of the same, as each offense was only able to push runs across in one inning apiece, but the AL extended its winning streak to nine games with a 3-2 victory. The star among stars was a kid who grew up going to games at Dodger Stadium before becoming one of the most impressive pure sluggers in modern memory: Giancarlo Stanton. The hulking Yankees outfielder mashed a 457-foot shot to tie the game in the fourth, and that was enough to earn him MVP — the third Yankees player to win the award after Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Pitching in his first Midsummer Classic, AL starting pitcher Shane McClanahan (Rays) came out of the gate a little too amped up and was very clearly overthrowing, causing him to lose the strike zone early. And when he did find the zone, the top of the National League lineup capitalized on his mistakes. Ronald Acuña Jr. (Braves) led off the bottom of the first with a double, scoring on a Mookie Betts (Dodgers) single to give the Senior Circuit a quick 1-0 lead.
A few batters later, the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt drilled a monster home run to left field. Fortunately for the AL, the Goldy blast only extended the lead to 2-0, thanks to this wizardry by Andrés Giménez of the Guardians:
Not only did Giménez and Tim Anderson (White Sox) team up with for a behind-the-back 4-6-3 double play that had the same swag you see when an NBA icon dunks with an open lane in the NBA All-Star Game, it erased the baserunner and ensured that the National League’s lead — its first multi-run lead since 2012 — would sit at 2-0 after the bottom of the first.
At this point, the American League pitching staff absolutely shut down the National League lineup. Alek Manoah (Blue Jays) struck out the side in the second in between plunking Jeff McNeil (Mets), Framber Valdez (Astros) induced three groundouts in the second, Paul Blackburn (Athletics) worked around Willson Contreras (Cubs) reaching on an E5, and Martín Pérez (Rangers) set them down in order in the fifth to get the ball to Yankees fan favorite Nestor Cortes in the sixth.
Throwing to teammate Jose Trevino, both of whom were mic’ed up, Cortes had an eventful sixth inning. After striking out leadoff hitter Austin Riley (Braves), Nasty Nestor walked Pete Alonso (Mets) and plunked Travis d’Arnaud (Braves) to put runners on first and second. In between them, however, he got Dansby Swanson (Braves) to fly out to center field for the second out of the inning. In some RailRider-on-RailRider violence, Cortes got 2017 RailRiders teammate Garrett Cooper (Marlins) to whiff on a 2-2 four-seamer to escape the jam.
All in all, the AL starting pitchers spun a quality start, allowing just two runs on four hits, striking out seven and walking just one in six innings of work.
The National League pitching staff similarly had its way with the AL lineup for much of the night. After giving up a leadoff single to Shohei Ohtani (Angels) on the first pitch of the game, NL starter Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) picked him off first, then struck out Yankees superstar Aaron Judge and got Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground into a fielder’s choice to pitch a scoreless first. Sandy Alcantara (Marlins), Joe Musgrove (Padres), and Luis Castillo (Reds) each pitched scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six between them.
Unfortunately for the National League, Tony Gonsolin (Dodgers) struggled in the fourth. José Ramírez (Guardians) led off the inning with a single. While he got Guerrero to fly out to Juan Soto (Nationals) in center for the first out of the inning, Stanton came up to the plate and did very mean things to a baseball.
Having already struck out back in the second and down 0-2 in the count, Stanton saw a splitter and sent it to orbit: 457 feet, 111.7 mph off the bat, the sort of home run that only a few people in the world can connect with. With that blast, the first game-tying long ball hit by a Yankee in All-Star Game history, Big G would earn himself MVP honors. As a nice touch, he noted that his home run sent a souvenir to the fans sitting where he used to sit as a fan at Dodger Stadium.
Not content with a tie game, the next batter, Minnesota’s own Byron Buxton, launched a missile of his own to give the AL a 3-2 lead. That would be the end of the scoring, as the National League pitchers scattered just three hits over the rest of the game. That would be enough, however, as Jorge López (Orioles), Gregory Soto (Tiger), Clay Holmes (Yankees), Liam Hendriks (White Sox), and Emmanuel Clase (Guardians) slammed the door on the Senior Circuit over the last three innings.
Since the league stopped the whole “All-Star Game winner gets home-field advantage in the World Series” thing a few years back, Fox has integrated more player interviews into the broadcast. Tuesday may have been the best example yet, and I’m not just saying that because Yankees were highly-featured. Manoah set the bar high in the second, lighting up the broadcast on the mound as he struck out the side while chatting with Joe Davis and John Smoltz; most humorously, when the broadcast asked him to throw a backfoot slider to McNeil, he proceeded to hit the Mets second baseman in the back foot with a slider. The bottom of the eighth, meanwhile, saw Hendriks (who, if you remember, accrued several FCC violations while wearing the mic last year) yelling to Julio Rodríguez (Mariners) that he wanted the ball, while the Seattle center fielder mimed throwing it into the stands.
Between these two innings, the Yankees took center stage on the broadcast. The top of the third saw gold from a pair of aces who were unable to play tonight because they started this weekend: New York ace Gerrit Cole and Max Fried of the Braves. Prompted by Ohtani coming to the plate, the pair talked about their hitting days. Cole warned us not to watch him running around the bases in his three career home runs, saying, “It’s not a good one, dude ... everyone gives me a bunch of crap for it” — so naturally, here’s the link to one that he hit off Luis Castillo in 2017; we’ll let you be the judge.
Both pitchers notably were very thrilled that the universal designated hitter was brought in, noting how they feel fresher not having to hit.
Noticing that Judge, who had an earpiece on in preparation for the bottom of the inning, reacted to something he said while at the plate, Cole called out to him, “What’s up big fella?” Judge proceeded to strike out against Musgrove.
The bottom of the inning saw Judge and Stanton mic’ed up in the outfield. To be honest, it was a largely disappointing inning, thanks to Judge’s mic failing early in the inning and Valdez setting down the NL hitters in order. That said, we did learn quite a bit about what the Yankee outfielders do in between pitches during the game.
A few innings later, David Ortiz took a wander through the American League dugout. He stopped quickly by the Yankees’ big sluggers. After scolding Stanton for hitting the ball too hard — noting that one that just barely clears the wall counts just the same — he pulled up right next to Judge and declared in a loud voice what the Yankees need to do.
“PAY THE MAN!”
With Cortes and Trevino serving as the battery in the sixth, the pair got mic’ed up for an inning that gave us a look behind the curtain. Although they occasionally jumped in to comment and ask questions, they largely let the sound of the game shine through, as the pair discussed how to attack every hitter — not only discussing the pitch and location, but also how Nasty Nestor would throw the ball.
Trevino stayed on the mic when he came to the plate in the top of the seventh, burrowing his way even deeper into the hearts of the Yankees faithful — something that before tonight I didn’t think would even be possible for the fan favorite.
Valdez gets credited with the win, while Gonsolin was saddled with the loss, and Clase earned the save. This was the first All-Star appearance for all three pitchers, so all three earned their first career All-Star decisions tonight.
Most teams get the next two days off, with the second half scheduled to kick off Friday night. Because of the lockout, however, eight teams — the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers — will return to action on Thursday.
The Yankees will take on the Astros in a doubleheader, making up a pair of games originally scheduled for the first week of April. First pitch of Game 1 is scheduled for 1:10 pm ET, while Game 2 is scheduled for 6:40 pm ET. At this point in time, the starting pitchers for neither team have been officially announced, though signs point toward Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon.