Last night the American and National League’s took part in the annual tradition otherwise known as the MLB All-Star game. Many have felt the need to ridicule the game for what it is and to, a greater extent, what it isn’t. Thanks to the adoption of interleague play, the development of technology and 24 hour sports stations that let us see any player anytime we want, and the everyone gets to participate mentality, the game lacks the intensity of yesteryear.
Regardless, the 84th Major League All-Star game went off without a hitch. The weather was great, Citi Field looked fantastic, and the game’s biggest and brightest stars were ready to put on a show. Unfortunately, as has been the case in recent years, pitching was the story as the staff for both leagues dominated the night.
Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey, got the call for the NL squad. In the process, Harvey became the third New York Met to start an All-Star game after Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden and only the 11th pitcher to ever start an All-Star game in his home stadium. The last time that happened was back in 2004 when Roger Clemons made the start for the NL as a member of the Houston Astros.
Harvey was spectacular in his two innings of work and lived up to the billing. After allowing the first two batters of the game to reach base, he settled down and retired the next six in a row, three of which came via the strikeout. It was made even more impressive given the batters he was facing. Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Jose Bautista were all made to look stupid at the plate.
Meanwhile, Harvey’s counterpart for the AL squad was Detroit Tiger Max Scherzer. Like Harvey, Scherzer was dominant, but Jim Leyland didn’t allow him to pitch more than his one inning of work, a total of 12 pitches. This didn’t come as much of a surprise. The last thing Leyland wanted to do was put his player at risk of injury, even if it came at the fans’ expense.
From that point forward the pitching mound served as a revolving door. Again, this didn’t come as much of a surprise. Every year we watch as the All-Star Game degrades into a series of never-ending pitching changes. All in all, both squads combined to use 18 different pitchers, 10 for the AL and 8 for the NL, And who was the lucky recipient of being in the right place at the right time to get the win? It was none other than Chicago White Sox ace, Chris Sale. Sale worked two innings of relief in the second and third innings when the AL took their lead.
Speaking of runs, the AL took the lead in the top of the fourth inning. Miguel Cabrera started off the frame with a lead off double deep to right center. Current Major League home run leader Chris Davis then followed with a single to advance Cabrera to third. Jose Bautista then complete the run creation process by hitting a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Cabrera, and putting the AL up by a score of 1-0.
The AL then added their second run of the game in the top half of the fifth in much the same way as they did in the fourth. Adam Jones led off with a double and was then followed by a Joe Mauer Single. J.J. Hardy then grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Jones and put the AL up 2-0.
Things would move fairly quickly from that point, as if they hadn’t moved along quick enough as it was. The AL didn’t get another rally going until the top half of the eighth inning. At that point, most of the starters had made their way to the bench and turned the spotlight over to the reserves. Among those taking the field, Cleveland’s own Jason Kipnis. Trust me when I tell you, he did not disappoint.
With Salvador Perez on at third and two out, Kipnis stepped to the plate looking to showcase his talents in front of the world’s stage. Facing Braves closer extraordinaire, Kipnis laced a line drive over the head of left fielder Dominic Brown for an RBI double, as if we hadn’t seen that before. The RBI by Kipnis put the AL up by a score of 3-0 and forced both Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to say something nice about Cleveland for an extended period of time.
Of course, Kipnis’ moment would be short-lived. Following Manny Machado‘s strike out, Neil Diamond was trotted out on the field to sing “Sweet Caroline” and to dance awkwardly around the infield. Then, in a moment that can only be described as truly awesome, the PA system started blaring the opening drum beat and guitar riffs to “Enter Sandman.” That’s right, folks. It was time for Mariano Rivera for the final time in an All-Star game and after a brief moment of ovation for one of the game’s all-time greats, Rivera turned in a typical 1, 2, 3 inning.
The NL tried to make it a game in the bottom of the ninth. Keyword, tried. With Joe Nathan on in relief, Matt Carpenter and Andrew McCutchen both struck out to start the inning. Paul Goldschmidt then doubled on a frozen rope to right to put a bit of stress on Nathan, but he would have none of it. Pedro Alvarez popped up to short right and the ball came to rest in the in the glove of Jason Kipnis to seal the win and home field advantage in the World Series for the AL.
The Good: Jason Kipnis made an impact. In his few innings of work he managed to contribute an RBI double and also make the final out of the game on a pop up by Pedro Alvarez. As a result, the Indians will now have home field advantage in the World Series IF… they can find a way to get their. Fingers crossed.
The Bad: unfortunately, Justin Masterson didn’t get a chance to get into the game. It’s disappointing because he legitimately earned his spot on the team with a tremendous first half, but he also didn’t have to risk injury by pitching one inning in relief. Personally, I choose to blame Jim Leyland and now have yet another reason to hate that crazy old curmudgeon.
The “Huh?”: Because this is an All-Star game, you expect runs to be scored in bunches, but that just wasn’t the case. Last night’s shutout by the AL over the NL was the second straight year in which one of the two teams was shut out. That makes it the first time in All-Star Game history that we have seen back to back shutouts. It’s surprising in the fact that these are the best players in the game so you would expect runs to be scored, but at the same time they have played 84 of these things and never had back to back shutouts. Baseball is weird sometimes.