Giancarlo Stanton homered in a sweet spot in his Dodger Stadium homecoming at the All-Star Game, with 50 family and friends in the stands where he watched games as a youngster.
Byron Buxton followed with another drive and the American League won its ninth straight Midsummer Classic, beating the National League 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Fans rooting for a tie score after nine innings so they could see a first-time home run derby decide it instead of extra innings didn’t get their wish.
Instead, the back-to-back homers in the fourth inning were the difference as the AL boosted its overall edge to 47-43-2.
Facing 11-game winner Tony Gonsolin of the Dodgers, Stanton’s impressive 457-foot, two-run shot landed in the left-field pavilion. Stanton and his father, Mike, would sit in that section after buying tickets off scalpers for whatever price they could afford.
“My pops took me to my first Dodger game, showed me how to have love for this game and now we’re here,” the New York Yankees slugger said on the field. “Look at us, it’s just incredible.”
Stanton was chosen the game’s MVP, receiving the award from two-time MVP Steve Garvey and Billie Jean King, part of the Dodgers ownership. Stanton had 50 family and friends on hand.
“It hasn’t fully sank in,” he said. “It’s going to be an amazing memory for all of our lives.”
The homer ended Stanton’s career 0-for-7 skid in the game and at 111.2 mph, it was the hardest-hit homer in an All-Star Game tracked by Statcast. Also scoring was Jose Ramirez, tying the game 2-all.
Four pitches later, Buxton went deep to give the AL a 3-2 lead against a clearly frustrated Gonsolin, who took the loss.
Blue Jays’ Manoah mic’ed up
Alek Manoah, Toronto’s expressive right-hander, wore a microphone and earpiece while pitching the second inning, engaging in an entertaining conversation with Fox analyst and Hall of Famer John Smoltz. “How hard am I throwing?” Manoah asked early.
He also sought scouting reports on Joc Pederson and Acuna Jr. Manoah did fine, striking out three and also plunking Jeff McNeil with a pitch. A lot of players were mic’ed up.
Fans heard Yankees teammates Aaron Judge and Stanton talking back and forth while playing the outfield, and Yankees battery mates Nestor Cortes and Jose Trevino talking while working together.
Nine-time All-Star Clayton Kershaw got the first start of his career for the NL in his home ballpark, with the Dodgers hosting for the first time since 1980. Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani pounded out the game’s first hit on Kershaw’s first pitch.
Framber Valdez of Houston got the win, tossing a scoreless third inning.
AL starter Shane McClanahan of Tampa Bay gave up two runs and four hits. The first-time All-Star, who owns an MLB-leading 1.71 ERA, had allowed four hits or fewer in his last seven starts.
McClanahan combined with 10 other pitchers on the five-hitter. Emmanuel Clase struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save. Austin Riley’s single in the eighth was the NL’s only hit after the first inning.
‘I was definitely swinging 100 per cent’
Ohtani led off for the AL as the designated hitter. Interviewed moments before the start, the Japanese superstar said, in English, he was going to swing. He cracked a 91-mph fastball into centre field on the first pitch.
“I was definitely swinging 100 per cent,” Ohtani later said through a translator. “Kershaw has really good command.”
His hit snapped an 0-for-8 streak as a hitter against Kershaw. Last year, Ohtani was the starting pitcher and led off as the DH in the AL’s 5-2 win at Denver. He didn’t pitch this year so he can start Friday in the Angels’ first game after the break at Atlanta.
“I mean, you can’t throw the first pitch of an All-Star Game as a breaking ball,” Kershaw said. “You kind of had to give him a heater there, I think just for everything. Had to do it.”
But the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner had the last word. Kershaw fired a pickoff throw to first that caught Ohtani off the bag.
“Honestly, I didn’t know quite know what to throw yet. Sometimes I throw over there for a second to be convicted with the pitch,” Kershaw said. “I wasn’t trying to pick him off. I was trying to delay the game for a bit, but it worked out.”
Then the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who leads the majors in home runs, went down swinging. After Rafael Devers walked, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Kershaw walked off to applause from the appreciative crowd.
“I tried to take a minute at the beginning to take it all in and look around, which I usually never do,” Kershaw said. “It kind of calmed everything down for me and then I had a lot of fun.”
The NL wasted no time in taking its first 2-0 lead in 10 years. Styling in yellow spikes and alternate yellow and red sleeves, Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the bottom of the first with a ground-rule double to left and scored on Mookie Betts’ single. Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo homer with two outs.
In between runs, AL second baseman Andres Gimenez made a defensive stop on Manny Machado and followed with a dazzling behind-the-back toss to shortstop Tim Anderson, who threw to first to complete the double play.
A sellout crowd of 52,518 filled Dodger Stadium two years after the third-oldest ballpark in the majors was supposed to host before the game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Honouring Rachel Robinson on 100th birthday
Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, with all of the other All-Stars bunched behind him, led the crowd in sending out 100th birthday wishes to Rachel Robinson. On his 1-2-3 count, the crowd and players shouted “Happy birthday, Rachel!” The widow of Jackie Robinson didn’t travel from her home in New York.
She visited Dodger Stadium in April on Jackie Robinson Day to mark the 75th anniversary of her husband breaking baseball’s colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Jackie Robinson’s achievement was honoured with on-field comments by Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington and a presentation on the video boards.
What an awesome moment!
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