By Morris Phillips
WASHINGTON D.C. — No one should be surprised. Power hitting is Major League Baseball’s new calling card. And the 89th All-Star Game was a portal to the game’s new, explosive look.
In a seamless coupling of the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, the American League prevailed, winning 8-6 as Houston Astros’ teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer homered on consecutive pitches in the 10th inning. A record 10 home runs were hit in the game, and it wasn’t until the top of the 10th that a run was scored in the game without the benefit of a home run.
To recap: 10 home runs, 25 strikeouts, nine walks. Either power up, go down swinging, or take a base and get ready for your next at-bat. Just putting the ball in play? That’s passe.
“We are entertainers,” said Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor. “People want to see home runs. People want to see strikeouts.”
“At the beginning of the game it was like, ‘Man, is anyone going to get a hit other than a homer?’ At the end of the game, it was, ‘Are we going to get out of this mess?,'” Astros manager A.J. Hinch marveled.
Well, the American League escaped, Ross Stripling and the National League did not. The Dodgers’ Stripling was asked to pitch more than an inning, and threw 39 pitches, only the Astros’ Charlie Morton threw more (40). For Stripling, it was a recipe for disaster, stepping into a game running red-hot into extra innings, and try to navigate an AL lineup poised to drop bombs.
Stripling survived the ninth, replacing Brad Hand, and retiring the two batters he faced. The 10th was a different story. Stripling allowed home runs on consecutive pitches to Bregman, then Springer. Seattle Mariners’ Jean Segura and Boston Red Sox’s Mitch Moreland followed with base hits. After Yan Gomes struck out, his Cleveland teammate Michael Brantley delivered a sacrifice fly scoring Segura and the AL had a seemingly, insurmountable three-run lead.
But then Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto homered in the bottom of the inning to close the gap to 8-6. See where this is going?