The Tuesday Takeaway
After 13 years of awarding the All-Star game's winning league with home-field advantage in the World Series, Rob Manfred took his foot off the gas this season and let the Midsummer Classic exist as it should be—an exhibition game. Removing unnecessary weight from the game appeared to be a resounding success, providing the day with a much more relaxed and playful vibe, instead of feigned tension and fabricated pressure.
While Tuesday’s event lacked the breathtaking moonshots, star-making performances, and intense dinger-offs of the Home Run Derby, we got to see baseball’s best talents (well, sans Mike Trout) battle it out with max-effort performances buoyed by some fun-loving and light-hearted moments.
As we’ve grown accustomed to, the All-Star game revolved around all-world arms giving it everything they’ve got for just a handful of pitches, and this year’s 2-1 result was no different. Max Scherzer kicked off the game with a grunt-filled inning of 97 mph fastballs, Chris Sale followed with a couple 99 mph heaters of his own, along with the trademark Frisbee slider, and some of the game’s best pitchers continued to trade blows for 10 innings.
Despite the heavy dose of elite velocity and impossible breaking pitches, there still was some offense, and naturally much of it came from the long ball. That said, Miguel Sano kicked things off in fairly unspectacular fashion with a bloop single off Alex Wood to drive in Jonathan Schoop, putting the American League up 1-0.
The National League evened the score with one swing from Yadier Molina, who traded in his gold-plated chest protector for a stick of lumber that drove an Ervin Santana fastball into the right field seats for a solo home run.
The game remained tied going into extra-innings, but just three pitches into free baseball, the sweet-swinging Robinson Cano launched a go-ahead home run off Wade Davis to hand the American League a win.
All-Star Pitches from All-Star Pitchers
Personally, my favorite part of the All-Star game is seeing baseball’s elite pitchers unleash the best stuff they’ve got over an electric inning of work. Whether it’s starters discovering a previously unseen third gear, or relievers showing just how impossible it is to make contact with their pitches, it’s always a treat to witness baseball’s best hitters flail helplessly at max-effort fastballs and benders which seemingly break the laws of physics. Every one of these All Star arms deserve their own article, but a far more efficient compromise is showing you my 11 favorite pitches of the night.
9. They don’t call him Mad Max Scherzer for nothing, and you’ve got to be a little crazy to throw superhuman Aaron Judge a 3-2 slider the day after his insane Home Run Derby showing.
7. Per Baseball Savant’s Statcast search, the hardest four-seam fastball Chris Sale threw all season clocked in at 98.8 miles per hour. So let’s watch him beat that with some triple-digit heat. Hitting Sale is nearly impossible. Hitting Sale when he’s throwing 100 mph? Good luck.
6. Roberto Osuna was the youngest player on the American League roster at 22. Oh, by the way, he’s been an elite reliever for three seasons in a row. If you’re wondering how he’s been so good at such a young age, look no further than this nasty slider he threw to Michael Conforto.
3. On Tuesday, eight pitches over 100 mph were thrown. Seven of them came from Carlos Martinez, including this one. C-Mart had perhaps the most impressive pitching performance of the night, striking out four over two innings.
2. I mean, it’s Andrew Miller, what more do you want me to say? Here’s how he closed out the game for the AL, sealing the win by making Cody Bellinger look silly.
1. Dellin Betances is the kind of guy who can lose any semblance of control for three batters in an inning, but still leave you thinking he’s one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball. This is why.
This Time It Doesn’t Count
While some baseball fans worried that removing the home-field advantage wrinkle of the All-Star game would turn the Midsummer Classic into a baseball version of the Pro Bowl, the lack of gravity for this year’s game proved to be a major plus.
Ultimately, the most important part of All-Star festivities is for the players (and fans) to have fun, and we certainly saw that on Tuesday. Perhaps the best part of the night came when Nelson Cruz stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning and promptly dropped his bat, took a phone out of his back pocket, and asked NL catcher Yadier Molina to take a photo of him with home plate umpire Joe West.
FOX took advantage of the laid-back atmosphere by introducing some unique broadcasting features to the game. While there were mixed reviews on the pre-at-bat interviews, Alex Rodriguez roaming the field between innings talking to players, and live chats with on-field outfielders in the middle of innings, the overall reception was positive and many greatly enjoyed getting into the heads of some of baseball’s best.
Defensive Play of the Night
Look, I’m not saying I’ve been replaying Bryce Harper’s hair flip all night, but … oh yeah, the catch wasn’t half-bad, either.