Tony Dejak/Associated Press
The American League’s dominance at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game continued Tuesday with a 4-3 victory over the National League at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
The Junior Circuit has now won the Midsummer Classic seven years in a row, although victory no longer guarantees home-field advantage in the World Series.
The pitching staff led the way for the American League, holding the National League’s best hitters to five hits while striking out 16. Cleveland Indians pitcher Brad Hand nearly blew a 4-1 lead and his teammates’ efforts in front of the home fans when he gave up a two-RBI single to Pete Alonso in the eighth, but he retired Mike Moustakas with two runners on before Aroldis Chapman shut the door.
He should have taken tips from Indians teammate Shane Bieber, who won the game’s MVP by striking out the side in the fifth inning. He struck out Willson Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna Jr. in an impressive performance to preserve a 1-0 lead.
Offensively, Joey Gallo’s solo home run in the seventh proved to be the difference after Michael Brantley and Jorge Polanco provided early RBI.
There is an element of irony to the fact Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander started the head-turning pitching performance for the home team.
He made headlines when he said he “100 percent” believes the league has juiced its baseballs in an effort to generate more offense, per Jeff Passan of ESPN. However, those potentially juiced baseballs were no help for the National League when it went down in order with two strikeouts against the starter in his only inning of work.
It set the tone for additional dominance, as Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins, Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox and hometown hero Bieber combined for four shutout innings to get the American League into the middle portion of the game.
Cleveland Indians @Indians
That’s the tweet.
#AllStarGame | #RallyTogether https://t.co/HAR8FjeYc6
The most emotional moment of the evening involved another American League pitcher during the Stand Up to Cancer tribute following the fifth inning.
Players and fans all stood up and held signs with the names of people they knew impacted by the disease, and Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco was joined by his teammates on the field. Carrasco, who recently revealed he was diagnosed with leukemia, held a sign saying “I Stand” while his teammates all held signs featuring his nickname, Cookie.
FOX Sports: MLB @MLBONFOX
We all stand united against cancer.
Who do you stand up for? https://t.co/XnnN8Gjz4R
On the field, the shutout disappeared in the sixth inning when Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon drilled a long ball off Liam Hendricks to cut the lead to 2-1, but the American League bats wasted little time responding in the seventh.
FOX Sports: MLB @MLBONFOX
@Chuck_Nazty puts the NL on the board! Reppin’ the @Rockies well. https://t.co/xScr3sk08P
Matt Chapman walked, advanced to third on James McCann’s single and scored on Xander Bogaerts’ double play to make it 3-1 before Gallo provided critical insurance with a solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Will Smith.
It was the first offense for the American League that came off non-Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers.
Brantley drove in Houston Astros teammate Alex Bregman with an RBI double off Clayton Kershaw in the second inning to start the scoring, and Gary Sanchez doubled off Walker Buehler and scored on Polanco’s infield single in the fifth.
Stats By STATS @StatsBySTATS
The American League’s first 3 hits tonight all came from @astros (George Springer, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley).
It’s the first time in All-Star Game history that one MLB team accounted for the first 3 hits by a league’s All-Star team.
It wasn’t all bad for Dodgers hurlers, as Hyun-Jin Ryu started for the National League and threw a scoreless first. He even retired Mike Trout, who honored the late Tyler Skaggs by wearing No. 45.
Bleacher Report MLB @BR_MLB
Mike Trout wearing Tyler Skaggs’ No. 45 for the All-Star game ❤️
The National League nearly overcame the early deficit in the eighth, but Hand’s strikeout of Blackmon with the bases loaded and ability to bounce back and retire Moustakas after allowing the two-RBI hit to Alonso preserved the game and set the stage for Chapman to strike out the side in the ninth.
It was only fitting the American League finished with a head-turning pitching performance from the New York Yankees closer, as it consistently overpowered the National League’s bats throughout the contest.