Pair of Houston Astros homer in 10th inning to lead American League to All-Star win
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
WASHINGTON — A record 10 home runs. A slew of strikeouts.
The all-or-nothing All-Star Game mirrored what baseball has become.
Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer homered on consecutive pitches to begin the 10th inning, and the American League beat the National League 8-6 Tuesday night for its sixth straight win.
“Standard operation nowadays, right?” said AL manager A.J. Hinch of Houston. “We’re going to homer and punch out as an industry.”
“There’s a great love affair with both results. I mean, to kind of empty your tank and hit homers tonight at this event is probably the best thing imaginable,” he said. “Just to have that kind of emotion that comes with the home run, especially when the big boys hit it and especially when the Astros hit it.”
Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Jean Segura also connected for the AL in a game where every run except one scored on a homer.
Scooter Gennett hit a tying two-run shot off Seattle closer Edwin Diaz in the bottom of the ninth. Joey Votto, Willson Contreras, Trevor Story, Christian Yelich also homered for the NL.
There had never been more than six homers in an All-Star Game since Babe Ruth hit the very first one in 1933.
One of the homers came off Milwaukee’s Josh Hader. After the game, the 24-year-old reliever took responsibility for racist and homophobic tweets that resurfaced while he was pitching.
While several sluggers went deep, not everything went their way. Starters Max Scherzer and Chris Sale and the relievers combined to fan 15 in the first 4 1/2 innings, and there were 25 strikeouts overall.
Fitting, because this season is on pace to become the first with more strikeouts than hits, a year after a record number of home runs.
“You’re facing power pitchers right now, so that’s kind of what you expect: hit-or-miss with these guys,” Boston’s J.D. Martinez said.
Martinez, who leads the majors in homers and RBIs, singled and struck out in his two at-bats.
Detroit Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez faced only one batter at the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, but he made it count.
Jimenez struck out San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford after an eight-pitch at-bat and with a runner on first base to end the fourth inning and maintain the American League’s 2-1 lead.
Jimenez nearly rung up Crawford on a 97 mph fastball on a 2-2 count, but home plate umpire Ted Barrett ruled it just a hair low.
Crawford then fouled off two pitches before Jimenez got a more generous called strike with a slider on the outside corner.
Major League Baseball seemed to take a selfie of itself, with all the homers and strikeouts. This was MLB 2.018, an update that’s not appealing to everyone.
“Some of us are going to get them and they’re going to get us. It’s just how it goes,” Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said.
Declining attendance is a concern, and the sport’s owners worry that slower games with less action on the bases are taking a toll.
A day after hometown star Bryce Harper electrified the crowd by winning the Home Run Derby, it was eerily quiet for most of the evening at Nationals Park. Harper didn’t excite the fans, either, fanning in his two at-bats.
The popular Presidents Race drew the biggest cheer in the middle innings, with the big-headed George Washington character prevailing.
The only thing missing was a bevy of defensive shifts. Overloaded infields are the norm now, Hinch and NL manager Dave Roberts of the Dodgers pretty much played things straight up.
Bregman and Springer homered off losing pitcher Ross Stripling of the Dodgers — that’s kind of how last year ended, too, with Houston battering Los Angeles pitchers in the World Series.
Bregman smiled all around the bases and earned MVP honors. He’s familiar with this city, his grandfather having been the general counsel for the old Washington Senators.
“My dad grew up on Ted Williams’ lap. So to see Ted Williams Most Valuable Player on this trophy is pretty special,” Bregman said.
Editor’s note: This includes contributions from Evan Woodbery of mLive.com.