MLB All-Star Game: Long Balls, Punchouts, and a Stink Bomb

In a season in which baseball has become the all-or-nothing game, its All-Star Game in Nationals Park provided a microcosmic display of evidence for the prosecution. There were probably those who swore the park's popular mid-game Presidents Race got a slightly bigger ovation than assorted players and pitchers did. Chicks may not be the only ones who don't dig the long ball the way they used to. But only to a small extent.

The Indians' Francisco Lindor has another view. "This is a show. We are entertainers," he said with remarkable perspective. "People want to see home runs. People want to see strikeouts. They also want to feel they're in the dugout with us or out at shortstop with me. Having the mic on and being able to interact with guys on the field, that was awesome. Those things are great." Lindor was one of several players mic'd up for the Game or snapping selfies when they had their chances, with fans, in the dugout, and with each other. But even he couldn't have anticipated the actual doings.

Ten flew over the fences in the Game, a record. Twenty-five batters struck out. And when the Game went to a 10th inning, the long ball made the difference for the American League's 8-6 triumph, when Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer opened against Ross Stripling (Dodgers) and cleared the walls back-to-back, with Michael Brantley (Indians) adding an insurance run with a sacrifice fly. The National League tacked on another run in the bottom with Joey Votto (Reds) whacking a leadoff bomb against J.A. Happ (Blue Jays) before Happ rid himself of the next three to end it. And, to record his first major league save — ever.

Even Max Scherzer, the Nats' right-hander who started the Game and whose status as a Cy Young Award candidate seems as perennial as Mike Trout's (Angels) status as an annual Most Valuable Player candidate, wasn't immune. He struck out four in two innings' work, but he also dealt with Aaron Judge (Yankees) sending an 0-1 service far enough into the left field bullpen that Judge's Yankee teammate Luis Severino caught it like an outfielder waiting under it.

Trout himself wasn't exactly asleep on the job Tuesday night. He stood in against Jacob deGrom, the Mets' brilliant and support-deprived right-hander who could yet be a Cy Young Award candidate (winner?) breaking Felix Hernandez's record for winning a Cy with the lowest won-lost record. On 0-2, Trout read a deGrom slider reaching for the lower outside corner and sent that, too, to the left field bullpen, where Yan Gomes, the Indians catcher, hauled it down a la Severino.

Someone asked Bryce Harper, the Nats' star who's struggling through the season despite continuing prodigious slugging, while he was in the outfield awaiting an inning beginning, if Trout was the best in the business. "If you don't think so," Harper replied," you haven't been watching. Harper's walk-year struggling showed up in the All-Star Game, too, striking out in both his plate appearances.

Judge and Trout put the American League up 2-0, but Willson Contreras (Cubs) put the National League on the board in the first place in the bottom of the third. The victim was Brett Snell, the Rays left-hander who was considered one of this year's biggest snubs until he was tapped as a substitute. Contreras jumped on Snell's first service and drove it into the left field seats. For the next three innings the game was more or less quiet — there were even some grounders and a few line drives here and there to break up the monotony — until Trevor Story (Rockies) met Charlie Morton (Astros) with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

Morton threw Story a fastball toward the inner part of the plate, and Story looked a moment as though adjusting mid-swing before driving that one not too far away from the left field foul pole to tie the game at two. Back came the real home run derby from there. With Springer and Shin-Soo Choo (Rangers) aboard, Jean Segura (Mariners) — pinch hitting for Lindor (Indians) — drove one to the second of the two bullpens in left in the top of the eighth. And in the bottom, Morton — a World Series hero for the Astros last fall — was battered again, this time by Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich sending one to the pens.

Pinch hitter Scooter Gennett (Reds) sent the game to the extras with a two-run jolt off Edwin Diaz (Mariners). Then Bregman on 2-2 sent one to the pens to open the 10th against Stripling, before Springer sent the first pitch Stripling fed him into the right field bleachers.

Manny Machado (Orioles) played in the Game despite the trade speculation that practically had him going elsewhere (to the Dodgers in particular, which made his playful selfie with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp somewhat telling to some) the moment the Game might end. deGrom has been a trade rumor subject, too, with the Mets collapsed to barely seeing the surface above their heads and deGrom likely to bring back a nice haul of prospects assuming the Mets have their eyes on the prizes.

Then, as often seems to be the case, came some absurdity. Hader, the Brewers' relief pitcher, who's having a whale of a season thus far (89 strikeouts in 48 innings) if you don't count Segura taking him long, was made to answer for disgraceful tweets he made . . . seven years ago. Racist, homophobic, sexist tweets. Hader awaited the press after the Game and squared up.

"It was something that happened when I was 17-years-old," Hader said matter-of-factly. "As a child, I was immature. I obviously said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn't reflect on who I am as a person today. And that's just what it is. I'm deeply sorry for what I've said and what's been going on. And like I said, that doesn't reflect any of my beliefs going on now. There's nothing before that I believe now."

Over which the Brewers and baseball government have decided not to suspend Hader, but baseball government will send him to sensitivity, diversity, and inclusiveness training. This is like a father discovering his son cheated on a school test several years earlier and fanning his behind for it.

"We have been in contact with Josh and he is fully aware of the severity of the situation related to his social media comments, regardless of the timeline of his posts," said Brewers general manager David Stearns. "His comments are inexcusable and he is taking responsibility for his actions. In no way do those sentiments reflect the views of the Brewers organization or our community."

How does the idea of punishing someone seven years after the fact for nothing worse than the crime of an ill-pickled tongue reflect? That's a stink bomb, not the kind of bomb that set an All-Star Game record Tuesday night.

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