Teams combine for record 10 home runs in American League’s extra-innings All-Star Game win
WASHINGTON Its O.K. to strike out these days as long as you can hit a few over the fence. And everyone has a pitcher who throws 96 miles an hour.
So Tuesdays All-Star Game was a celebration - or a grim reminder - of the feast-or-famine, power versus power era this sport is in.
Aaron Judge, baseballs current Big Thing, began the homer barrage with a blast in the second inning that made fans rise from their seats.
Jean Segura appeared to put the game away in the eighth with a three-run shot off of normally untouchable reliever Josh Hader. That is, until Scooter Gennett struck a two run homer in the bottom of the ninth off of a 96 miles per hour fastball from Edwin Diaz, who has saved 35 games for the Mariners.
But back-to-back Astro blasts from Alex Bregman and George Springer off Ross Stripling in the 10th as part of a three-run finishing kick.
By the time the Midsummer Classic ended, a record 10 home runs were struck, with the American League hitting five of them in an 8-6 victory over their National League counterparts.
Mike Trout, the reluctant face of baseball, also homered for the AL, Wilson Contreras, Trevor Story and Christian Yelich went deep for the NL - but the AL now is 44-43-2 in the all-time series.
When someone wasnt homering, they were striking out. Nationals ace Max Scherzer struck out two batters in the first inning, a theme that was followed by most of those who followed. There were 13 strikeouts through the first four innings on Tuesday, 21 through eight and 25 for the game.
With the real possibility that there will be more strikeouts than hits in the league this season for the first time ever, Tuesdays developments werent surprising.
Hey, thats the All-Star Game, Twins righthander Jose Berrios said. Thats what everyone wants to see.
Based on todays standards, Berrios disappointed. He didnt strike anyone out or give up a home run. But he had things to deal with on his own, as he had to face two fellow Puerto Ricans - his close Javier Baez of the Cubs and the Cardinals Yadier Molina - considered baseball royalty back home.
Berrios grew up with Baez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and his wifes sister is Baezs fianc. And his nerves regarding the situation were instantly revealed when his first pitch to Baez went to the backstop.
But Berrios got Baez to fly out to right field for the second out of the inning, and the two playfully motioned toward each other at the end of the at bat. Molina blasted Berrios first pitch to the deepest part of the park, where Trout camped under it for the final out of the inning. Berrios and Molina barked at each other as they headed for their respective dugouts.
Hey, for me it was awesome, Berrios said. I got to pitch against Baez and Yadi. Its great for me, and the people of Puerto Rico.
Afternoon thunderstorms made some nervous that the game would be impacted, but the rain stopped about two hours before game time. Pre-game ceremonies werent affected by the weather, and all the right touches were made on a celebration of baseball and patriotism.
A group of local choirs dressed in red, white and blue robes and formed a human flag. Twenty-nine Medal of Honor recipients - spanning conflicts from Iwo Jima to Afghanistan - lined up across the infield and received thunderous applause. And an military flyover topped it all off as the announced crowd of 43,843 roared with delight.
Then Scherzer took the mound and had the AL trailing his exhaust.
The Nationals righthander struck out Mookie Betts looking and Jose Altuve swinging while hitting 98 on the radar gun. Scherzer forced five swings and misses in the first inning alone, an inning that ended with Jose Ramirez popping with Trout on first.
But things were much different in the second, when Judge centered a 95 mph heater and planted it in the left field seats for the first run of the game.
Trout returned in the third inning to launch a home run of his own, this one on a Jacob deGrom sinker, that gave the AL a 2-0 lead. Contreras got the NL within 2-1 when he hit Blake Snells first pitch of the night out to left, then Trevor Story lasered a 107 mph homer to left to tie the game in the seventh.
But Brewers lefthander Josh Hader, averaging a ridiculous 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings, gave up two singles then spun around in dismay as Segura hit a no-doubter out to left. The AL led 5-2 at time, but the homers kept coming.