2016 All-Star Game: NL vs. AL — A truck, a farewell, and standing up to fight

A red carpet parade on the backs of Chevy trucks with the players showing off their duds has become a rather normal part of the All-Star Game. But on a lovely summer day in southern California, it’s almost idyllic. After a show of fashion, the players showed up at the field for all the pre-game BP and festivities wearing those (still very ugly) retro style uniforms. But then, they switched to their own team uniforms. And I have to say this may be the best thing most of them wore all week.

This game was won in the first half. In the first part of the just over 3 hour game, both teams continued last night’s home run derby with a small showing of their own. All the runs in this game were scored in the first 4 innings, essentially making the rest of the game for the fans. And also paving the way for the Yankee bullpen to do what they do best.

Right off the top of the 1st inning, with 2 outs, a solo home run to left field by the Cubs’ Kris Bryant (who was in the HR Derby last year) to get the NL team on the board. But the pitcher for the NL team, Johnny Cueto (Giants), was with the Royals, and in the 2nd inning, he faced some familiar faces. With 1 out, former teammate Royals’ 1st baseman Eric Hosmer hit a home run to left field to tie things up. Boston’s Mookie Betts singled and then scored when another Royals player Salvador Perez hit another home run to left field off his former teammate to give the AL a nice lead over the NL.

After another single, Cueto was pulled for the Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez who promptly struck out the Angels’ All-Star veteran (and young star) Mike Trout. Fernandez wasn’t without his own issues in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, he gave up a walk to Boston icon David Ortiz. This was David Ortiz’s final All-Star Game, and he went out in the least “Papi” way. After working a walk in his 2nd at-bat in the 3rd inning, they pinch-run him, and as he saunters off the field only to be greeted by the whole AL team coming onto the field to surround him. No home runs, no walk-off, no bat flips, just walking off the field, greeted by all the AL team. This just a stark difference in how other recently retired players were honored in their final ASG.

Anyway, with 1 out and Royals’ DH Edwin Encarnacion in for Ortiz at 1st, another Boston player (yes, the AL was packed with Boston and Kansas City players to start) Xavier Bogaerts double to put the runners in scoring position. Hosmer was back up again to score his teammate with a single to give the AL that extra cushion run. A double play ended the AL scoring in a fell swoop.

In the top of the 4th, with the AL on its 3rd pitcher, Giants’ star catcher Buster Posey worked a 1-out walk and then got all the way to 3rd on the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo’s single. The Marlin’s Marcell Ozuna singled and scored Posey to halve the AL lead. But 2 outs later, the NL was also done scoring. Crossing the plate became non-existent. No one knew it at the time, but the game had already been won.

But that didn’t make the game any less interesting. It wouldn’t be a proper game without someone asking for a proper challenge, which the NL did in the top of the 5th inning when Nationals infielder Daniel Murphy (formerly with the Mets, by the way) made it to 1st on a fielding error by Astros’ 2nd baseman Jose Altuve (a rarity in the regular season).

Players came and went. There always seemed to be a new uniform somewhere on the field. And both bullpens showcased the best of each league as last year’s World Series managers (Terry Collins for the Mets and Ned Yost of the Royals) plotted their strategy.

All 3 Yankee representatives made decent appearances in the later part of the game. Carlos Beltran came into the game in right field in the 6th and had a single at-bat where he hit a long fly ball right to the center fielder for the 2nd out of the bottom of the 6th. However, he was on the field when his teammate Dellin Betances took the mound in the 7th inning.

And if that sounds familiar or intentional, you’re absolutely right. Yost was smart enough to use the 2 best 7th and 8th inning bullpen guys in the league exactly when they belong on the field. And they both felt rather familiar and kind of consistent with how they’ve been pitching lately.

Betances got a beautiful strikeout right off the top of the 7th inning before giving up a single and a wild pitch to get a runner to 2nd. But that’s okay. It’s Betances. So a fly out and another great strikeout stranded that runner and passed the torch to his teammate Andrew Miller for the 8th.

Miller, unfortunately, struggled in his first ASG appearance a bit. (Also, Beltran was done for the night and was replaced in right field for the 8th inning. So is Beltran a “good luck charm” of sorts? Could be worth considering…) Anyway, the NL final vote winner Brandon Belt came on to lead-off the inning with a pinch-hit fly out. But then the next batter singled. But then he got a strikeout, and with 2 outs now on the board, things looked up briefly. But another pinch-hitter singled and one of the participants in last night’s HR Derby worked a walk to load the bases. Yost had seen enough and wasn’t about to risk anything, so he put in Astros’ reliever Will Harris for Miller. Harris got out of the jam with a strikeout of his own.

Final score: 4-2 American League over the National League, so at the end of it all, the American League won home field advantage again. (Full video recap here.)

Plus, the ASG MVP went to the Royals’ Eric Hosmer, who chose the Chevy Colorado (why anyone chooses the truck over the Camaro I never understand, by the way). Though admittedly, he chose it for his father rather than himself, so I’ll give him that one. Hosmer was responsible for 2 of the AL’s 4 RBIs tonight and continued his defensive show at 1st base for a good portion of the game.

I said to someone before the game that the ASG always comes down to defense. Yes, pitching and hitting are important, but those are more individual contributions. But for involuntary teammates to have to work together to defend is something different. It requires instinct and clear communication and trust in your normal on-field rival. I’ve found that can make or break an ASG team in most of the games I’ve watched in my lifetime. (Though admittedly, I’ve not seen all 87.) But defense matters. And the AL did seem to have that a bit more together than the NL, which again is what made the difference in the end.

Okay, so my amazing contributor (who you’ve been reading these last couple of weeks in my absence) did some great research and compiled a ton of great ASG-related links. They are worth viewing/reading if you need something to tide you over for the next couple of days before the second half of the season begins when the Yankees host the Red Sox in the Bronx on Friday.

Some links: Official Information of the ASG (including tons of great inside articles); ASG historyhow fans help decide who wins the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote; all the cool events and pictures that happened at San Diego’s Fanfest; and the national anthem sung by singer Rachel Platten.

Before the game, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by 1976 Cy Young Award winner and Padres player Randy Jones. And a special ceremony featuring both “Mr. Padre” Tony Gwynn and the great Rod Carew.

Apparently, in that spirit, they decided to rename the AL and NL batting trophies. The NL batting title will be named after Tony Gwynn, while the AL will be named after Rod Carew. At the podium before the game, with the trophies before him, Commissioner Rob Manfred was joined by Carew and his family and Gwynn’s wife and children.(more information here).

Let’s not forget about the big farewell from Big Papi. This was his 10th and final All-Star Game so there is much written about his exit from baseball already, but for this game, he began his goodbyes personally.

And on a final note, in the 5th inning, MLB partnered with Stand Up to Cancer and MasterCard to recognize those who are or have fought the terrible battle. In a moment of solidarity, thousands of people in the stadium — players, coaches, broadcasters, fans, vendors, security guards, camera operators, everyone — held up signs that read “I Stand up for”. For a special moment of silence as cards raised high to honor loved ones, you could see signs all over the stadium from the nose-bleed seats to the Beach in right field to the press box to the dugouts. Then national anthem singer Rachel Platten sang her famous single “Fight Song”, joined by the thousands in the crowd (and I assume millions watching, like I did).

{You can read more information about this specific cause and other MLB sponsored charity efforts here.}

Go Yankees!

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