CLEVELAND – If we’re being honest, the actual baseball played during the 2019 All-Star Game on Tuesday night wasn’t the most entertaining or exciting part of the multiple-day All-Star extravaganza near the shore of Lake Erie.
And that’s OK.
The game itself was fine. The American League beat the National League 4-3. The NL’s eighth-inning rally – the Senior Circuit cut the deficit to just 4-3 on a two-run single by Mets rookie Pete Alonso – fell short with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run at second. The biggest theme of the game was AL pitchers striking out a bunch of NL hitters, 16 of them, including three each by game MVP Shane Bieber, Liam Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman.
“We were nasty, man,” said Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, who’s nursing a pectoral injury and didn’t pitch in the game. “It was a nice little win for the AL.”
Turned out that Joey Gallo’s solo home run in the seventh inning, a line-drive that gave the AL a three-run cushion, was pretty darn important. In a season that’s been defined by incredible home run numbers, that was one of only two baseballs to sneak over the fence in the Midsummer Classic. Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon – who had been 0-for-8 in his first three All-Star Games – homered in the sixth and got the goose egg off the scoreboard for the NL, which he admitted was a nice feeling.
‘Yeah! I mean, I felt like I contributed for the first time,” Blackmon told SN with a grin. “I wish I could have done something in that next at-bat, but it was still fun to be out there.”
That “next at-bat” was in the seventh, when he struck out with the bases loaded, immediately before Alonso delivered his RBI base knock. He wasn’t the only NL hitter to flail helplessly against AL hurlers, of course. We already mentioned the 16 strikeouts.
The contrast between Monday night’s frenetic Home Run Derby – Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit 91 homers himself, Alonso won the title and the eight guys combined to hit 312 homers – and Tuesday’s All-Star Game was hard to ignore. But, again, that’s OK.
The game’s an exhibition, a celebration of the sport. And to that extent, the week’s worth of events was mission accomplished in Cleveland. The excitement in the city, which did a fantastic job hosting, was hard to ignore, too.
The Play Ball Park events were packed with families and kids – side note to MLB: Make this a traveling show that moves around the country and promotes the game, please -and the support inside the stadium was outstanding, too.
Raucous cheers erupted anytime one of the hometown players did anything remotely good Tuesday night. Again, if we’re being honest, Bieber was probably given the MVP largely because the roars that increased with each of his three strikeouts in the fifth inning were, by far, the loudest of the game.
The Stand Up To Cancer moment, when Cleveland teammates Bieber, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and manager Terry Francona joined Carlos Carrasco – who just announced that he has leukemia – was chill-inducing.
“It was a message,” Lindor said. “It was a message to let him know, ‘We stand up for you. We will be next to you, as a team and as a family. We are next to you. We’re right there for you.’ And that’s all that matters. We all believe in him, we all believe that he’s gonna kick cancer’s butt, and he’ll be fine.”
And then there was Mike Trout running onto the field wearing uniform No. 45 in tribute to Tyler Skaggs, his Angels teammate who died suddenly and shockingly at 27 years old when the team was in Dallas to play the Rangers recently. Tommy La Stella, the other Angels All-Star, wore Skaggs’ No. 45, too.
Another unforgettable moment that was more important than the actual baseball played in this exhibition – one no longer tied to home-field advantage in the World Series, thankfully – that was a celebration of the sport.
And that’s exactly what happened this week, a worthy celebration.