The losing streak is finally over. For a while it looked like the AL was going to find a way to make it 10 straight MLB-All Star Game wins, but Rockies catcher Elias Diaz’s unlikely go-ahead homer in the eighth — and Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel’s high-wire act in the ninth — snatched the Senior Circuit’s first victory in the Midsummer Classic since 2012. This game had something for everybody, and you missed any of it, here’s everything you need to know.
The stars were out
Seattle showed out for the entirety of All-Star Weekend, and the game itself was no exception. After rosters were introduced, the Mariners treated us to some baseball royalty, as Ken Griffey Jr. joined some former teammates for a star-studded ceremonial first pitch:
Seattle welcomes back multiple legends and Hall of Famers for today's #AllStarGame!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 12, 2023
Edgar Martínez and Ken Griffey Jr. throw out the first pitch to Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner ⚾️ @Mariners pic.twitter.com/ytzHvSDEa7
Our only regret is that Ichiro wasn’t around to join them.
The AL got off to a high-flying start
AL starter Gerrit Cole told Tom Verducci just before taking the field that he was determined not to nibble against a stacked NL lineup, and he was true to his word, pumping fastballs throughout the top of the first. Of course, you can be as aggressive as you want when you get as much help from your defense as Cole did; right fielder Adolis Garcia robbed Ronald Acuna Jr. at the wall to lead off the game, then left fielder Randy Arozarena did the same in left against Freddie Freeman in the very next at-bat.
Cole recorded a 1-2-3 inning in the box score, but he owes both of his outfielders a nice dinner.
‘Come to Seattle!’
Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani didn’t pitch on Tuesday night as he nurses a blister on his throwing hand. He did DH, though, which gave the crowd at T-Mobile Park a chance to pitch the free-agent-to-be on taking his talents to Seattle this winter. They did not let it go to waste:
“Come to Seattle” chants breaking out as Shohei steps up to the plate pic.twitter.com/7QfgbW3hYD— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) July 12, 2023
Will this be the thing that sways Ohtani one way or the other? Almost certainly not. On the other hand, maybe file this quote away for November:
Shohei Ohtani on hearing the chants from #Mariners fans to come to Seattle (through interpreter):— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynMcIntyr) July 12, 2023
“Every time I come here, the fans are passionate. I’ve actually spent a couple off-seasons in Seattle, I like the city, it’s good.” pic.twitter.com/W52VByI0W1
The Mariners pursued Ohtani aggressively when he first came over from Japan, though circumstances have obviously changed since then: At the time it only took a few million bucks to sign the Japanese star due to international bonus rules. Now? Ohtani’s looking at the most expensive contract in the history of the sport. Plus, he told reporters Monday that ‘it sucks to lose’, so now it’s on the Mariners roster to get hot in the second half.
Diaz goes deep
As expected given the arm talent on display — all of whom got to really cut things loose in just an inning of work — we had a pitcher’s duel on our hands on Tuesday night. It was the AL who struck first, when Rays star Yandy Diaz parked a hanging Mitch Keller curveball into the left-field seats in the bottom of the second inning:
Díaz joins Carl Crawford (2007) and Mike Zunino (2021) as the only Rays to hit a home run in the All-Star Game. He’s also the third Cuban-born player to do so, after Hall of Famer Tony Pérez did it in 1967 and five-time All-Star Octavio “Cookie” Rojas did it in 1972. After years of hard contact but sky-high ground ball rates, Diaz entered the All-Star break with 13 homers, just one shy of his career high. With another dinger on Tuesday, it seems like his power breakout isn’t slowing down any time soon.
The Rangers make history
When Texas righty Nathan Eovaldi followed Cole on the mound in the bottom of the second, the Rangers did something that we haven’t seen for a very long time: They put a whopping six players — Eovaldi, Garcia, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Josh Jung and Jonah Haim — on the field at an All-Star Game at the same time, the first team since the 1951 Dodgers to do so:
1939 Yankees. 1951 Dodgers. 2023 Rangers. pic.twitter.com/HSF3jf7sH8— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) July 12, 2023
The Dodgers who did it? Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider. Not bad company.
Just hours before first pitch, word broke that White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr. would be forced to miss the All-Star Game with calf tightness that first popped up during Monday’s Home Run Derby. That wasn’t the only injury to befall the AL, however: Just one out into the seventh, Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano was forced to exit with a trainer. Manager Dusty Baker said that Romano had felt stiffness in his lower back while warming up in the bullpen, which raises the question of why he was allowed to pitch a meaningless exhibition in the first place:
Dusty Baker tells Ken Rosenthal that Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano felt "tightness in his lower back" on his final bullpen pitch.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) July 12, 2023
Romano then entered the game, exited after 5 pitches (the last resulting in a flyball that was ruled a home run before being overturned to foul). pic.twitter.com/prh1bkE2th
The other Diaz delivers
After a Bo Bichette sac fly gave the AL a 2-1 lead entering the eighth, it seemed like the NL was going to once again find a way to lose the All-Star Game. Untouchable O’s closer Felix Bautista was set to take the mound, with Kenley Jansen waiting behind him. But then a savior emerged, from the unlikeliest of places:
Diaz, already the first Rockies catcher to make the All-Star Game, would become the first Rockie to take home MVP honors thanks to that swing. He entered the game as a +6500 long shot to take home the award, per DraftKings Sportsbook, and he was clearly overwhelmed by the significance of it after the game.
This was Diaz’s first All-Star game, and he hit the first lead-changing homer in the eighth inning or later at the Midsummer Classic since Hank Blalock took Eric Gagne deep way back in 2003 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Not a bad debut.
Craig Kimbrel (barely) locks it down
Of course, the NL still had to get the final six outs, and boy did they have to work for it. Kimbrel, who’s turned back the clock for the Phillies this year, got the call from Philly manager Rob Thomson in the ninth, and it was clear right away that the veteran righty didn’t have his best stuff. After retiring Wander Franco and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Kimbrel issued back-to-back walks to Kyle Tucker and Julio Rodriguez (the latter of which did not go over well with the Seattle crowd), bringing up Jose Ramirez with the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first.
But that was just where Kimbrel wanted them:
Craig with the save.— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 12, 2023
NATIONAL LEAGUE WITH THE WIN. pic.twitter.com/UUhz3vKg38
Kimbrel got Ramirez swinging, and the NL finally snapped the AL’s nine-game All-Star winning streak. Of course, the Junior Circuit has still lost just four times since 1997, but hey, maybe this can be the start of a new National League dynasty.