WASHINGTON, D.C.: “It’s a great venue for the All-Star Game, our nation’s capital,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters this morning, before the 89th annual MLB All-Star Game.
“I think baseball has a unique place in American culture so it’s really fitting that we’re here,” Manfred added.
The last time Washington, D.C. hosted an All-Star Game, in 1969 in RFK Stadium, it was the 40th edition of the Midsummer Classic.
This time it was Nationals Park, which thrilled Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer, who learned he would get the nod as the National League’s starter on Monday afternoon, before meeting with reporters alongside NL manager Dave Roberts, American League skipper A.J. Hinch, and AL starter Chris Sale.
“When Dave told me that I was -- that he was going to give me the nod,” Scherzer said, “... so many emotions when you know that you’re pitching in your home park. This is such an honor for the All-Star Game to be here.
“In previous experiences of being in the All-Star Games, you know, seeing the hometown players and how the fans get behind the hometown players, it’s always been a special moment just watching that from afar and being on the other side.
“So I can only imagine what it’s going to be like to have the Nats fans here supporting all of us, Bryce [Harper] and [Sean] Doolittle, as well. It’s just an honor to be able to have that recognition and go out there and start this thing again, because this is just a dream come true.”
The plan was for Scherzer to throw two innings. Harper was penciled in as the NL’s starting center fielder and No. 6 hitter.
Scherzer started things off with a backwards K, dropping a front door 2-2 slider in to get Mookie Betts looking for the first out of the game, dialed up an 0-2 fastball up high on a defenseless Jose Altuve, and then got up 1-2 on Mike Trout with a low cutter the Angels’ outfielder offered at and missed, before working the count full, fouling a couple off and walking when Scherzer lost a slider inside.
Mad Max up the ladder.#AllStarGame pres. by @Mastercard pic.twitter.com/G7Su9ABBMy— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2018
J.D. Martinez singled to center with two down, sending Trout around to third, but a pop to second by Jose Ramirez got Scherzer through a 19-pitch first.
Scherzer came back out for the second, after Sale worked around a leadoff single in a quick bottom of the first inning, and the Nats’ right-hander gave up a solo shot to left on a 95 mph 0-1 fastball that Aaron Judge hit out to left field for a 1-0 AL lead.
Get the party started. #AllRise#AllStarGame pres. by @Mastercard pic.twitter.com/DZ9J6byTn3— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2018
A fly to left field by Manny Machado and a three-pitch strikeout of Jose Abreu, which ended on a 96 mph fastball, got Scherzer two quick outs, and he got Salvador Perez to chase a 1-2 curve for another swinging K. 13-pitch frame, 32 total after two. That was it for Scherzer...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 32 P, 25 S, 0/1 GO/FO.
Bryce Harper stepped in with a runner in scoring position in his first at bat, after Matt Kemp doubled to left in front of him to lead off the second. Yankees’ righty Luis Severino was on the mound for the AL after just an inning from Sale, and Harper, who finished the first-half with a .233/.441/.450 line, four doubles, three homers, 26 walks, and 20 Ks in 93 PAs with runners in scoring position, went down swinging at an 0-2 slider.
Trout hit a 1-2 fastball from Mets’ righty Jacob deGrom out to left to give the AL a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, but Willson Contreras hit a first-pitch fastball from Rays’ lefty Blake Snell out to left field in the bottom of the third, 2-1.
This is @WContreras40’s first All-Star appearance.— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2018
This won’t be his last.#AllStarGame pres. by @Mastercard pic.twitter.com/fbTRF7BZX7
Harper got Snell in his second at bat of the game with one out in the bottom of the fourth, but he K’d looking this time on a 3-2 fastball outside he thought was ball four.
That was it for Harper, who was switched out before the start of the sixth inning.
Former Nationals, current A’s reliever Blake Treinen retired the NL in order in a quick, 12-pitch bottom of the sixth, and former Nats’ lefty Felipe Vazquez (née Rivero), came out against the AL in the top of the seventh and worked around a single and a walk for a scoreless frame.
It was still 2-1 AL when Rockies’ infielder Trevor Story took Astros’ righty Charlie Morton deep to left in the bottom of the seventh inning, tying it up at 2-2.
Two singles off Josh Hader in the top of the eighth hurt the Brewers’ left-hander, however, and Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto dropped a foul pop off Jean Segura’s bat a pitch before Segura homered to left, hitting a three-run blast that put the AL up, 5-2.
Christian Yelich made it a two-run game with a solo shot to left off Morton in the bottom of the eighth, 5-3, and Scooter Gennett homered with a runner on and one-out in the bottom of the ninth to tie things up at 5-5, taking a 1-0 fastball from Mariners’ closer Edwin Diaz to right field in Nationals Park, 5-5.
Extras? You betcha... it wasn’t tied for long, as both Alex Bregman and George Springer hit home runs off DOdgers’ righty Ross Stripling to put the AL back on top, 7-5, in what ended up an 8-6 win after Joey Votto homered to start the NL tenth.
Final Score: 8-6 AL
American League now 44-43-2