With a chance to tie the All-Star record for fewest hits allowed in a game (two, done by the AL in its 2-0 win in 1990) and fewest baserunners allowed (three, done by the NL in its 1-0 win in 1968) — the AL turned things over to Joe Nathan to close out its first All-Star Game win since 2009. He got two quick called strikes on Carpenter via a pair of 92 mph fastballs, the second of which looked well off the plate, and caught him looking at a 94 mph heater. He followed by striking out McCutchen on four pitches, the last of which was some 93 mph high cheese.
Alas, Nathan couldn't finish the job well enough to tie those records, as Goldschmidt launched a first-pitch double to rightfield that Nelson Cruz played as though it was the last out of the World Series, which is to say that he watched it go over his head. This one didn't yield consequences nearly so dire as did David Freese's triple in the 2011 World Series, however. Nathan recovered to induce Alvarez to pop to Kipnis at second, netting himself the save on the 3-0 victory and completing the festivities in three hours and six minutes.
Sale, who threw two perfect innings, was credited with the win, Corbin with the loss. With no clear-cut MVP — no home runs, no player with two hits and only one run-scoring hit -- Rivera was awarded the honor for the first time in his career, an oddity given that he had never before performed in a setup capacity in this game. The victory raised the AL's record in the Midsummer Classic to 39-43-2 and guaranteed the AL pennant winner home field advantage in the World Series.
Did you know that Prince Fielder has ten career triples? Well, if you count All-Star Games, he now has 11. Batting against Jason Grilli, Fielder hit a sinking liner into the no-man’s land in medium right field created by the shift, lifting the ball over Matt Carpenter, playing in shallow, but dropping it just in front of a diving Carlos Gomez, who was playing deep. The ball got by Gomez on the dive, and Fielder, who was only jogging to first base, was able to hustle into third just ahead of the throw (though not quite as quickly as this GIF suggests):
However, Fielder was stranded at third by a pair of groundouts to second and a 405-foot fly out to dead center by Alex Gordon.
While Leyland had guaranteed at Monday's press conference that he would bring Mariano Rivera into the game — "You will see number 42 pitch" — he curiously jumped the gun and did so for the eighth instead of waiting until the ninth. Even so, the scene was stirring, as the greatest closer of all time sprinted to the mound to his familiar entrance song, Metallica's "Enter Sandman," while the rest of the AL squad remained on the sidelines. Alone in the spotlight, Rivera soaked up thunderous cheers from the crowd and applause from both dugouts as he began his 13th and final All-Star appearance. Finally, Perez came out to catch Rivera's warmup tosses.
After that scene, the inning itself was rather anticlimactic. Segura grounded to Kipnis at second base, pinch-hitter Allen Craig lined out to Gordon in left and Gomez grounded to Peralta at shortstop.
The American League added an insurance run in the top of the eighth the while also setting a new All-Star Game record by grounding into its fourth double play of the game, breaking the record of three held by five teams, most recently the NL in 2006. The run came when Salvador Perez led off by cueing a single down the rightfield line, moved to second on Jhonny Peralta’s single, to third on the double play by pinch-hitter Torii Hunter, and scored on a double to deep leftfield by the still red-hot Jason Kipnis. The AL now leads 3-0.
Greg Holland came on in relief of Balfour and served up an 85 mph slider that Goldschmidt hit down the line. It looked like a sure double, but Machado backhanded it, planted at the intersection of the outfield grass and the foul line and made an outstanding throw — easily the defensive gem of the game if not quite the equal of his peg from July 7 against the Yankees. Here's the GIF from SB Nation:
Wright lined a single to leftfield for just the NL's second hit of the game, and then Leyland went to his bullpen, calling for lefty Brett Cecil to face Brown. The gamibt worked; Cecil struck out Brown on three pitches, the last of which was a 93 mph sinker. Channeling Tony La Russa, Leyland returned to call upon righty Steve Delabar to face Posey, who's got a career OPS more than 200 points lower against lefties (829) than righites (1062). Again the move paid off, as the Giants' catcher swung at a low 85 mph slider on the outside corner for strike three.
After the inning, Pedro Alvarez came in a third base to replace Wright for the NL.
Aroldis Chapman wasn’t sharp for the NL in the top of the seventh. His first pitch skipped past Posey to the backstop, after which he walked Nelson Cruz and nearly walked pinch-hitter/DH Edwin Encarnacion. Fortunately for Chapman, Encarnacion took a bad swing at an inside 3-and-1 pitch and hit into a 6-4-3 double play, after which Chapman rallied to strike out Adam Jones on a 101 mph fastball. Still 2-0 AL.
Changes for the AL in the bottom of the inning: Alex Gordon in leftfield replacing Jones. Mike Trout moves to center. Salvador Perez at catcher. Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. Jason Kipnis at second base.
In a game that had thus far sped by without a walk, it was left to Grant Balfour to issue ball four to Cuddyer, the leadoff man of the sixth. Balfour quickly restored order, however. Harper flared a soft liner to Hardy at shortstop on his second pitch. Carpenter hit a towering fly ball to Jones in centerfield in the fourth pitch of his at-bat, and then McCutchen struck out swinging at a low-and-away slider to end a five-pitch at-bat.
Alas, since it was only the sixth inning, Balfour did not go into one of his trademark rages.
After the inning Carlos Gomez took over for Harper in rightfield.
Twenty-year-old Jose Fernandez, who made the jump to the majors from High-A this spring to become the youngest pitcher in Marlins history, just worked a 1-2-3 top of the sixth in the All-Star Game, striking out Dustin Pedroia looking at a fastball and Chris Davis swinging through a curveball.
Meanwhile, the announced attendance of 45,186 is a new Citi Field record.
Heading to the bottom of the inning, the AL is making several changes: Nelson Cruz is going to rightfield, Prince Fielder is at first base and Manny Machado is at third base with Grant Balfour coming on to pitch.
Matt Moore took the baton from Hernandez, staked to a two-run lead, and continued the trend of efficiency. While none of the other AL hurlers had needed more than 15 pitches in a single inning thus far, Moore got by with only nine, tying Sale's first inning for the lowest count thus far. Gonzalez grounded Moore's first pitch to Pedroia, who fielded it most scrappily but needed a strong throw to complete the play. Molina grounded out to Hardy, and then Tulowtizki popped out to Pedroia.
After the inning, the NL made a slew of moves. Matt Carpenter came on for Phillips at second base, Jean Segura relieved Tulowitzki at short, Buster Posey replaced Molina behind the plate and Domonic Brown took over for Gonzalez in leftfield.
McCutchen stayed in the game in centerfield, pushing Bryce Harper to right, and Paul Goldschmidt took over for Votto at first base. Cliff Lee replaced Corbin on the mound, making his first All-Star appearance since the aforementioned Adrian Gonzalez homer. Lee quickly surrendered another run on an Adam Jones leadoff double, a Joe Mauer single and a J.J. Hardy groundout. That last was nearly a double play thanks to a nice, typically stylish feed by Brandon Phillips, but Hardy just beat Troy Tulowitzki’s relay throw. Not to be denied, when Mike Trout hit another double play ball to short, Phillips took Tulowitzki’s feed barehanded to turn an inning-ending 6-4-3 twin-killing.
After Mauer’s single, a fan ran onto the field. He was quickly surrounded by security as he approached second base and attempted to surrender peacefully, but despite coming to a stop in the infield was tackled hard by a security guard nonetheless, much to the delight of the Citi Field crowd.
Felix Hernandez came on in relief of Sale, bearing the heavy burden of keeping the perfecto intact, but he couldn't hold it. He induced Phillips to hit a slow one-hopper, but left a fasball over the plate that Beltran slapped to the right of Hardy for a clean single, the NL's first hit of the game. Beltran then yielded to pinch-runner Andrew McCutchen, who immediately bolted for second and barely beat a throw from Joe Mauer, a clean stolen base. Votto grounded out to Pedroia, sending McCutchen to third.
That set the stage for Wright, but he couldn't deliver the tying RBI. Though he got ahead in the count 2-0, he swung at a sinker in the dirt, then hit a weak grounder to Cabrera, who charged in to make yet another strong play.
The AL’s streak of futility is over as Diamondbacks’ sophomore Patrick Corbin became the first NL pitcher to allow a run to the AL since Cliff Lee gave up a solo home run to the Red Sox’s Adrian Gonzalez in the fifth inning of the 2011 All-Star Game. Miguel Cabrera led off by blasting a double into the right-field gap. Chris Davis pushed him to third with a single off the tip of a leaping Joey Votto's glove, and Jose Bautista brought him home with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
As Leyland had planned, Sale worked a second inning, and he did it cleanly. Troy Tulowitzki, 0-for-10 in three games since returning from month-long absence due to a broken rib, struck out on five pitches, the last of which was an 80 mph slider. Michael Cuddyer, the third of three Rockies in the starting lineup, hit a slow roller between the mound and first base which Sale fielded cleanly and underhanded to Davis. Harper got ahead in the count 2-0, fouled a dribbler down the third base line, and then hit a hot smash — but right at Cabrera at third.
Not to jinx anything, but the AL's working on a perfect game. If that happens, I think their pennant winner gets to play all seven games of the World Series at home.
Clayton Kershaw set the AL down in order on a trio of fly outs in the top of the third, extending the scoreless streak to 17 innings and making it nine AL hitters retired in a row in this game. The good news is that Robinson Cano’s x-rays were negative, though that won’t help the AL in this game.
Chris Sale took over for Scherzer, who started on Saturday and was thus primed for only one inning; he threw just 12 pitches. Sale proceeded to make even shorter work of the NL hitters, needing just nine pitches.
Hometown representative David Wright received a huge ovation from the Citi Field crowd, though not a full standing ovation. He hit Sale's first pitch, a 96 mph fastball, down the third base line, but Miguel Cabrera fielded it cleanly and made a strong throw to get him. Sale then struck out Carlos Gonzalez swinging at an 82 mph slider, and got Yadier Molina to fly out to centerfield.
Harvey set the AL down 1-2-3 in the top of the second, ending a 10-pitch battle with Adam Jones by blowing a 98 mph fastball by him. Joe Mauer then made good contact with a 1-0 fastball but lined it right to Carlos Gonzalez in leftfield as the AL's scoreless streak continues; it has now gone 16 innings without scoring in All-Star competition. Harvey is likely done there having set down his last six men in order, striking out three of them.
Props to Bruce Bochy for building a lineup that features the starter with the lowest on-base percentage (Brandon Phillips at .320) in the leadoff spot, and putting the guy with the .371 OBP (Bryce Harper) ninth because he's 20 years old. Never stop trolling those statheads, Bruce, and while you're at it, tell the kids to get off the lawn.
Before the game, I asked the Verlander, who gave up five runs in the first inning of last year's All-Star start, if he had any advice for his teammate Scherzer. He laughed good-naturedly and responded with an emphatic "No! Don't do what I did."
Whatever he didn't say, it worked for Scherzer, who took the mound wearing the same fluorescent orange shoes as Harvey, apparently made from the pelts of baby traffic cones, and dispatched the NL in shot order. He got Phillips to sky a 93 mph fastball to Mike Trout in leftfield. Shortstop J.J. Hardy had a bead on the ball as he went back, but pulled off just in time to avoid a collision, which makes me marvel at the fact that we don't see more mayhem among players who haven't played together before.
Scherzer then won a six-pitch battle with Carlos Beltran, getting him to ground to first base and covering the bag for the throw from Chris Davis (somewhere, somebody practiced that play), and then struck out Joey Votto on four pitches, with all three strikes called, the last one a 99 MPH pitch on the outside black.
Matt Harvey followed Tom Seaver, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, to the mound to a huge ovation from the home crowd, then got into a bit of a jam. He gave up a first-pitch double to Mike Trout and hit Robinson Cano in the side of his right knee with his third pitch, but he recovered to strike out Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista on 92 mph sliders sandwiched around a Chris Davis fly out that Bryce Harper made a nice effort to get to in shallow center.
The key evetn of the half-inning, however, was the hit-by-pitch, which came on a 96 mph fastball to Cano's knee. Cano attempted to stay in the game, but after the strikeout of Cabrera, took himself out and was replaced on the bases by Dustin Pedroia. Even in the All-Star Game, the Yankees can't avoid significant injuries.
The National League has won the last three All-Star Games by a combined score of 16-2 and its pitchers have an active 14-inning scoreless streak coming into tonight's 83rd Midsummer Classic. Whether or not you think the connection is meaningful, the National League has also won the last three World Series, with homefield advantage proving key in the Cardinals' 2011 victory over the Rangers.
In two of the last three years, players on the pennant winning teams have factored heavily into the All-Star results. In 2011, the Rangers' C.J. Wilson blew a 1-0 lead by giving up a three-run home run to Prince Fielder, taking the loss. Last year, American League starter Justin Verlander of the Tigers gave up five runs in his lone inning of work, handing NL starter Matt Cain of the Giants the win for his two scoreless frames while San Francisco's Melky Cabrera, the game's Most Valuable Player, and Pablo Sandoval combined to drive in five runs in the NL's 8-0 victory.
This year, the AL is sending another Tigers' starter to the mound in major league wins leader Max Scherzer, who is 13-1. Scherzer is expected to pitch just one inning, while NL starter Matt Harvey, pitching in his home ballpark, is expected to pitch two followed by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. We also know that AL manager Jim Leyland intends to use the White Sox's Chris Sale for the third and fourth innings and has assured everyone that Mariano Rivera, who is retiring after this season, will pitch in this game, ideally for the save in the bottom of the ninth, and likely in the bottom of the eighth if the AL is trailing at that point. --CC