The American League once again beat the National League on Tuesday night in Cleveland, where, you might have noticed, music was invented, or something. The AL went up early and never relinquished the lead, finishing things up 4-3.
With those winners and losers out of the way, let’s take a gander at how everyone else performed.
Winner: In-helmet Mics
From Freddie Freeman chatting with Joe Buck as he struck out in the first inning (Buck advised him that one borderline pitch was definitely a ball), to George Springer trying to convince Freeman (and, by extension, pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu) that he was definitely not going to try to steal second (he kept his word), to Buck promising to tell outfielder Christian Yelich whether a ball would go foul or not to save him the exertion, to Cody Bellinger telling Yelich “my bad” for homering in Game 7 of the NLCS, to Francisco Lindor copping to making reservations for an umpire’s family at Cleveland’s Lola Bistro, to Pete Alonso confessing he wasn’t sure if he stayed on the bag to get Carlos Santana out (he did!), getting to hear directly from players while the game was still going on was a delight.
Did the mics—and the fact that Yelich, in left field, and Bellinger, in right, were actively chatting with Buck during a Michael Brantley at-bat—contribute to the American League getting on the board in the bottom of the second inning? Well. Maybe. But, hey, if we’re going to let the exhibition game just be for fun’s sake, this has been an awfully great way to have some fun.
Loser: Juiced Balls
As if to taunt those waiting for Justin Verlander to be vindicated, both offenses were initially restrained. We finally saw a home run in the sixth inning courtesy of Charlie Blackmon, and then another the following inning from Joey Gallo.
Earlier in the week, Verlander lashed out against the juiced ball—that is, the measurable difference in baseballs produced over the last few years that has made them much more offense-friendly. “We all know what happened,” Verlander said. “Manfred, the first time he came, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not a coincidence.”
The Astros righty should know—at least about the state of the baseballs, if not so much a commissioner conspiracy: Verlander’s given up the most home runs of any pitcher in baseball this season. As the All-Star Game got underway, he laughed openly when Ken Rosenthal repeated that Rob Manfred had said that owners do not want more home runs. Baseball might still be denying that the ball is juiced, but this week, Verlander pushed that reality to the forefront.
Winner: Shane Bieber
In his All-Star Game debut, Bieber struck out the side in the fifth inning in front of a home crowd that made clear it wanted him to be named the game’s MVP. And he was! Enjoy your truck, Biebs.
Loser: Washington and Baltimore Baseball
MLB rules require at least one member from all 30 teams to be present on the All-Star Game rosters. But Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon, the Nationals’ two planned candidates, both bowed out with injuries: Scherzer reaggravated a back injury, while Rendon is dealing with quad and hamstring trouble. So the game went on with nary a Nat in sight—unless you count the Racing Presidents.
The Orioles, meanwhile, sent rookie pitcher John Means to Cleveland. (Justice for Trey Mancini, whom at least one graphic designer seemed to think was coming along.) But AL manager Alex Cora apparently opted to save him in case of extra innings—of which there were none, meaning no Orioles played on Tuesday, either.
Winner: Pete Alonso, Again
One night after winning the Home Run Derby with 57 total home runs, Alonso made a stellar out at first, and then boasted that this morning he was so far from exhausted that he didn’t even need a cup of coffee. Great, thanks, that was definitely the case for me as well, a person who did not hit 57 home runs last night, too.
Then, in the top of the eighth, Alonso walked up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and clobbered a single into left field, allowing two to score and bringing the National League, which hadn’t beat the American League since 2012, within one run of tying the game.
Loser: The San Francisco Giants
For the Giants—who are, you may or may not have heard, not quite playoff-bound—only closer Will Smith made the cut for the All-Star Game. Giants fans, including, ahem, yours truly, spent much of the game eagerly awaiting his eventual summons, and with good reason. Smith is having a great year: He has an ERA of 1.98 and has recorded 23 saves, putting him in a tie for third most in the majors this year. He, together with Madison Bumgarner, is likely to be one of the pieces the Giants try to move at the end of the month. With so many, er, marginally more competitive teams badly in need of a reliable arm in the bullpen, this was as good a moment as any for Smith to showcase his talents, and maybe raise his stock a touch—all the better for the rebuilding Giants.
Smith was finally called up in the bottom of the seventh, with two outs already logged and no one on base. The indignity! A single out was hardly worth Smith!
He gave up a home run on his first pitch.
Winner: Mookie Betts
Look—do I like this? No. Do I respect it? I mean.
Loser: J.T. Realmuto
Well, it wasn’t his fault. Poor J.T.: Apparently, the Phillies catcher’s gear never made it to Cleveland. Instead, he spent the week “borrowing helmets that don’t fit and putting Phillies decals on them.” Triumph in the face of adversity!