By Morris Phillips
In the pantheon of performances by Giants’ pitchers chosen to start the All-Star Game, Johnny Cueto’s wasn’t the cakewalk Juan Marichal experienced in 1967, or the walkover Matt Cain enjoyed in 2012. Instead, Cueto, who admitted to feeling under the weather before the game, had an outing that most approximated Vida Blue’s 1978 start, also in San Diego:
Sudden fireworks at the Giants’ starter’s expense, a bit of embarrassment, and in Cueto’s case, a loss.
Cueto allowed home runs to former teammates, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez in the second inning, early offense that held up in the American League’s 4-2 win over the National League on Tuesday night.
“I think it was two pitches I left up, and I paid the price,” Cueto said through an interpreter following his stint in which he allowed five hits in a 1 2/3 innings of work.
The AL win gives the American League champion home field advantage in the World Series for the fourth consecutive season, no insignificant development for the NL Giants, who hold the league’s best record with 90 of the season’s 162 complete. Of course, the Giants overcame the home field advantage in 2014 when Madison Bumgarner led his team past the Royals in Game 7 in Kansas City.
The K.C. connection played big on Tuesday, as Hosmer and Perez became only the second pair of teammates to homer in the same inning in an All-Star Game joining Jimmy Wynn and Steve Garvey of the Dodgers who achieved the feat in 1975.
“It’s a dream come true, and it felt like my first big league homer right there,” Hosmer said in an interview with FOX during the game. “It was special.”
Hosmer’s home run came with one out in the second inning, tying the score 1-1, a rapid answer to Kris Bryant’s homer off Chris Sale that gave the NL the lead in the first. Mookie Betts singled, then with Hosmer being interviewed in the dugout following his homer, Perez took Cueto deep to left, and the AL led 3-1.
Did familiarity aid Hosmer and Perez against Cueto, their teammate on the Royals’ World Series winning team of last season? Or were the duo’s home runs payback for Cueto departing for the deeper-pocketed Giants?
Cueto, in a good mood despite his outing, downplayed both scenarios, emphasizing the presence of his entire family, and the opportunity to represent the first-place Giants. The nine-year veteran appeared to have everything in his favor: snazzy lime and orange cleats, his current catcher, Buster Posey, behind the plate, and the bright sun and shadows that hamper hitters with a 5pm West coast, mid-summer start time. Instead, Cueto suffered, perhaps feeling ill, elevating a pair of pitches to the Kansas City duo and surrendering hard hit balls to Mike Trout and David Ortiz.
With Trout looming in the on deck circle, manager Terry Collins elected to remove Cueto with a runner on, and two outs in the second inning.
Hosmer added an RBI single in the third, and was named the game’s MVP. It was the first time a Kansas City player captured the award since Bo Jackson in 1989. That year, Jackson homered in the first inning off Giants’ starting pitcher Rick Reuschel.
It was Hosmer’s first All-Star appearance and he couldn’t contain his excitement after circling the bases.
“We’ve been here before. We’ve been on a stage before!” Hosmer said to no one in particular as he approached the Royals’ dugout.
Cueto suffered the loss, only the second time he’s done so in a San Francisco uniform after going 13-1 in his first 18 starts as a Giant. His All-Star performance may have lacked, but not like Atlee Hamaker’s relief appearance in 1983 in which he allowed a grand slam and seven earned runs in less than an inning.
Marichal started All-Star games in 1965 and 1967 and cruised both times. Cain started in 2012, and picked up the win, departing after two innings with a 5-0 lead.
But Blue, like Cueto, saw things deteriorate fast, allowing a triple to Rod Carew, then a double to George Brett, the first two batters of the game. Unlike Cueto, Blue escaped a loss as the NL rallied that year, overcoming Blue’s 3-0 deficit to win 7-3 at Jack Murphy Stadium.
ALL STAR NOTES: Tuesday’s game was played in a tidy 3 hours, 5 minutes as both teams had nine pitchers pitch and record at least one out… There were 18 hits in the game, but no scoring after the top of the fourth… The American League was designated the home team as an NL club hosted the game for the fourth straight season. In acknowledgement of the string of NL cities hosting, the American League was designated as the home team, wore white uniforms and hit last… Bryant was 0 for 6 with six strikeouts against Chris Sale, before homering off Sale in the first inning. Bryant played the game in front of friends and family, gathered nearby University of San Diego, where Bryant starred collegiately… Ortiz was removed for a pinch hitter in the third after drawing a walk off Miami’s Jose Fernandez. In his final All-Star game appearance, Ortiz was greeted with a standing ovation while all of his All-Star teammates came out of the dugout to greet him… Fernandez’ tongue-and-cheek promise to groove fastballs when facing Ortiz didn’t materialize. Fernandez started Ortiz with a changeup, then walked the slugger on a 3-2 pitch.