2019 All-Star Game
The 2019 All-Star Game, the 90th edition of the midsummer Classic, was held on July 9th at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. It was the 6th time the game was held in Cleveland and the game was timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Progressive Field. It was the first time the game was held in an American League ballpark since the 2014 edition. The American League recorded its 7th straight win, 4-3, over the National League in a game in which only two homers, both solo shots were hit, whereas homer records were falling left and right across Major League Baseball that year. The winner of the Ted Williams Award as the game's MVP was P Shane Bieber of the host Cleveland Indians, who struck out all three batters he faced in his one inning of work.
The logo for the game featured a guitar shape, in recognition of Cleveland's role as the "birthplace and spiritual home" of rock 'n roll and site of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. One figure that was conspicuously absent was Chief Wahoo, the Indians' caricatural Native American mascot: MLB had insisted that its usage be discontinued by the team in order to obtain the right to stage the game, given the controversial nature of the figure considered as strongly racist by many observers.
MLB introduced changes to the rules for selecting starters for the game: while they were still decided by fan voting, this now became a two-stage process. The first stage determined the top three candidates at each position, and the second stage consisted of a one-day runoff vote during which fans selected the starter among these three players. This change also brought an end to the Final Man Vote, which had been run since 2002. In addition, MLB introduced larger bonuses for participants, including for the winner of the Home Run Derby, in order to encourage more top-rank star players to take part. With regard to the game itself, the use of the Schiller rule governing extra innings was moved up to the 10th inning (the previous year, it would only have been in effect starting in the 11th inning).
In a season when home run records were being shattered left and right, the game was relatively tame in terms of hitting, with only two long balls being hit, and relatively few baserunners either. The AL won for the 7th straight year in another close game - the two previous editions had gone to extra innings - although there were no lead changes this time: a 2nd-inning run gave the junior circuit an early lead that it would never relinquish.
Veteran Justin Verlander started things off for the AL with a perfect inning, including strikeouts of Javier Baez and Freddie Freeman, to set the tone. Incidentally, at 29, Freeman was the oldest starting position player for the NL, an indication of how the game was now dominated by young stars. Hyun-Jin Ryu then took the mound as the first South Korean to start an All-Star Game, and while he gave up a lead-off single to George Springer, he managed to strand him by getting the next three batters in order on ground balls. There would be no pitcher going more than an inning in this game, so Masahiro Tanaka took over for Verlander in the 2nd. He gave up the NL's first hit after two out, on a ground ball by Josh Bell that he barely beat for an infield single (in fact, first base umpire Brian O'Nora had originally called him out on a throw by 2B D.J. LeMahieu, but the call was reversed after a video review). There was no further damage, however, as Willson Contreras hit a ball back to Tanaka to end the inning.
The AL took the lead it would never relinquish against Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the 2nd. Alex Bregman singled with one out, then after a fly out by Gary Sanchez, Michael Brantley doubled to center to score his teammate from the Houston Astros all the way from first base. There was no further scoring until the 5th, as the pitchers dominated for an extended stretch, with Jose Berrios, Jacob deGrom, Lucas Giolito and Luis Castillo all pitching a scoreless frame. The NL put the lead-off man on in both the 3rd and the 4th, but could not send him home either inning. In the top of the 5th, local favorite Shane Bieber took the mound and put on an electrifying performance, striking out Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna in order. That brilliant bit of pitching earned him the honor of being named the recipient of the Ted Williams Award as the game's MVP at the end of the contest.
The AL aded a second run in the bottom of the 5th when Gary Sanchez led off with a double off Walker Buehler and took third on a ground ball out. Jorge Polanco followed with a hot shot to second base that Max Muncy bobbled and which was ruled a single as Polanco bat his throw to first base. Buehler then struck out the next two batters to end the inning. The NL got the run right back in the top of the 6th when [[Charlie Blackmon], nit known for hitting many long balls outside of his home ballpark of Coors Field, bounced a pitch from Liam Hendriks on top of the centerfield wall with two outs for a solo homer. Mike Soroka then followed with a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 6th, and it looked like we were headed for yet another very tight game. That was confirmed when Shane Greene reeled off another strong inning in the top of the 7th, retiring all three batters he faced in order.
The AL gave itself some breathing room in the bottom of the 7th however. Brandon Woodruff came in to pitch and immediately got himself in trouble by walking Matt Chapman on a full count, and then allowing a single to James McCann that allowed Chapman to reach third. Woodruff got pinch-hitter Xander Bogaerts to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, but Chapman scored the AL's third run. Woodruff then gave way to Will Smith, who was greeted on his first pitch by a bomb off the bat of Joey Gallo, a bomb to deep right field that was a no-doubter as soon as it struck the bat. The AL was now up, 4-1, with just two turns at bat remaining. The NL managed to make things interesting against Brad Hand in the 8th when Yasmani Grandal and David Dahl led things off with a walk and a single, respectively. After one out, Paul DeJong drew another walk to load the bases and with two outs, Pete Alonso, winner of the Home Run Derby the day before, singled to left to score two runs. DeJong and Alonso then pulled off a double steal, but Hand was able to induce Mike Moustakas to pop up in foul territory to end the inning.
After Sandy Alcantara pitched a scoreless 8th, helped by an inning-ending double play ground ball by Jose Abreu, the NL had one final chance against Aroldis Chapman in the 9th. However, the "Cuban Missile " struck out J.T. Realmuto and Muncy, then after an unexpected mound visit by teammate CC Sabathia, who was not an All-Star but was honored for his brilliant career of 19 years scheduled to end this season, he struck out Grandal as well to end the game and preserve the 4-3 win. The AL pitchers racked up 16 strikeouts in all, the most by one team in an All-Star Game that did not go into extra innings; the previous record was 15 by the NL in 2015.
Sabathia had also been tabbed to throw the ceremonial first pitch, with Sandy Alomar Jr., MVP of the 1997 All-Star Game also played in Cleveland, serving as the catcher. There was a minute of silence in honor of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who had died suddenly on July 1st, and both of his teammates, Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella were wearing his number 45 instead of their regular uniform number. During the "Stand-Up to Cancer" tribute, all of the Indians' representatives stood up for teammate Carlos Carrasco, who had just revealed he was suffering from leukemia and joined them in the dugout for the occasion.
|Christian Yelich||LF||Milwaukee Brewers||1||George Springer||RF||Houston Astros|
|Javier Baez||SS||Chicago Cubs||2||D.J. LeMahieu||2B||New York Yankees|
|Freddie Freeman||1B||Atlanta Braves||3||Mike Trout||CF||Los Angeles Angels|
|Cody Bellinger||RF||Los Angeles Dodgers||4||Carlos Santana||1B||Cleveland Indians|
|Nolan Arenado||3B||Colorado Rockies||5||J.D. Martinez||DH||Boston Red Sox|
|Josh Bell||DH||Pittsburgh Pirates||6||Alex Bregman||3B||Houston Astros|
|Willson Contreras||C||Chicago Cubs||7||Gary Sanchez||C||New York Yankees|
|Ketel Marte||2B||Arizona Diamondbacks||8||Michael Brantley||LF||Houston Astros|
|Ronald Acuna||CF||Atlanta Braves||9||Jorge Polanco||SS||Minnesota Twins|
|Hyun-Jin Ryu||P||Los Angeles Dodgers||SP||Justin Verlander||P||Houston Astros|
National: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw (L), Jacob deGrom, Luis Castillo, Walker Buehler, Mike Soroka, Brandon Woodruff, Will Smith, Sandy Alcantara
American: Justin Verlander, Masahiro Tanaka (W), Jose Berrios, Lucas Giolito, Shane Bieber, Liam Hendriks, Shane Greene, Brad Hand, Aroldis Chapman (SV)
- Associated Press: "Rock stars: Indians unveil guitar logo for '19 All-Star Game", USA Today, August 7, 2018. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "All-Star voting to culminate in single-day event: Also, extra innings in ASG will begin with runners on second base", mlb.com, March 14, 2019. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "AL holds off NL to win 7th straight All-Star Game", mlb.com, July 10, 2019. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "All-Star Game starting pitchers, lineups, fun facts", mlb.com, July 9, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Chief Wahoo missing from Cleveland's All-Star Game, but mascot issue endures", USA Today, July 7, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "American League wins MLB All-Star Game to extend winning streak to seven games", USA Today, July 9, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Finally, an MLB All-Star Game that reminds us of what baseball once looked like", USA Today, July 10, 2019. 
- Jesse Yomtov: "In inaugural year, MLB's new All-Star Game voting system got it right", USA Today, June 28, 2019.