CLEVELAND — The entire conversation surrounding this year’s MLB All-Star Game has been about juiced balls and how MLB players are hitting more home runs than ever.
Well, the National League All-Star team sure could have one more of those.
The American League won its seventh straight All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Progressive Field by the score of 4-3. But the NL squad was one swing away from breaking out of that funk.
The NL had the best possible player — Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso — up with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. A homer would have put the NL ahead. Instead, he delivered a two-run single that put the game within reach but wasn’t quite enough.
Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber was named the game’s MVP after he struck out the side in the fifth inning with the hometown fans chanting his name. The AL team as a whole notched 16 strikeouts on the evening, a big part of their win, but Bieber had the stadium rocking when he punched out Ronald Acuña Jr. Bieber threw his hand into the air to thank them as he walked off the field.
In a week that saw Justin Verlander’s bold proclamation about a new ball leading to more dingers and then Alonso and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. putting on a show in a Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game wasn’t actually too much of a slugfest. There were two solo homers, one on each side from Charlie Blackmon and Joey Gallo, but certainly nothing to make you believe the homer apocalypse is upon us.
Instead, we got a relatively brisk game that clocked in at two hours and 48 minutes, which the pace-of-play conscious league will certainly appreciate for a showcase game. It featured the AL pushing most of its runs across the plate with old-school strategy of well-timed hits and station-to-station baseball.
The AL was on the board first, thanks to the Houston Astros, who sent the most players to the All-Star Game. Alex Bregman singled in the second inning, then chugged around to score when Michael Brantley — the former Indians outfielder, who was celebrated loudly — doubled into the left-center gap.
They tacked on another in the fifth inning when Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco brought home Gary Sanchez (who doubled to start the inning and moved over to third on a fielder’s choice) with a grounder to second. Blackmon homered in the sixth to cut the AL lead in the half, but the seventh inning brought two more AL runs.
In another small-ball victory, Matt Chapman scored when Xander Bogaerts hit into a double play. Then Gallo came up and lined one over the right-field fence for a 4-1 lead. Alonso’s single in the eighth made it 4-3, which is how this one would end.
The game may not be remembered for homers — but there are plenty during the regular season, don’t worry — but it may be remembered for a long list of players who were mic’d up on the field, sharing a new dimension of the game with the live audience watching at home.
Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman started the game by wearing a mic while he batted against Justin Verlander. He struck out, but it was plenty entertaining.
Bregman, Brantley and George Springer all wore mics together while on defense, and Springer found himself chasing down a ball hit over his head.
Indians star Francisco Lindor put on a mic and showed how chatty he is on the field, talking to umpires and teammates for an entire half inning. We learned he even helped an umpire get dinner reservations at a local restaurant.
“This is my city,” he said before the end of the inning.
It is. But for a few days, he was nice enough to share with the rest of the baseball.