The upstart American League barely beat the National in a tough 4-3 victory last night at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, in the 90th All-Star Game. The AL posted its seventh straight win in the Midsummer Classic. It was a game that moved quickly – at least – by glacial MLB terms, ending in less than three hours of hype, and commercials interrupted by batss, gloves and balls. ( Box score)
The AL has won 19 of the past 23 All-Star Games, dating back to the last Midsummer Classic at Progressive Field in 1997. The AL won five straight All-Star Games from 1997-2001, and then another seven straight after the leagues tied in 2002, for a total of 13 straight All-Star Games without a loss. The longest “uninterrupted” All-Star win streak is 11, accomplished by the NL from 1972-82.
The weather was perfect in front of a noisy crowd of 36,747. Domineering innings from Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Jose Berrios, Luis Castillo and local hero Shane Bieber, guaranteed that the offensive onslaught of last summer’s Midsummer Classic would not repeat itself – even in a 2019 season that has doubled as a year-long Home Run Derby because of aerodynamically slicker balls.
An Astros attack emphasized by an RBI double from former Indians outfielder Michael Brantley in his old ballpark got the AL on the board in the second.
Charlie Blackmon brought the NL back within a 2-1 margin by smacking a home run in the top of the sixth inning. That broke a 0-for-8 slump for Blackmon to begin his All-Star Game career, after he’d gone hitless in 2014, ‘17 and ‘18. Blackmon has hit 16 of his 20 regular season homers at Coors Field in ’19.
A couple manufactured runs, and then a power shot from Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo, who hit a solo homer in the seventh, determined the outcome. Gallo hit Will Smith’s first pitch a projected 397 feet to the right-field stands to extend the AL’s lead to 4-1. Gallo struck Smith’s pitch with a 111.5 mph exit velocity, making it the hardest-tracked base hit in an All-Star Game since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The previous high mark was Kris Bryant’s 110.8 mph homer off Chris Sale in 2016.
The NL made it a 4-3 game in a two-run eighth off Brad Hand, but Aroldis Chapman was able to close it out in the ninth to maintain a run of dominance that extends beyond the seven-game win streak.
AL pitchers struck out 16 NL hitters, setting an All-Star Game record for the most Ks by one league in a nine-inning game. The previous high was 15, recorded by NL pitchers in 2015. The all-time single-team record, regardless of game length, is 17 strikeouts, set in a pair of 15-inning games (both the AL and NL in 2008, and the NL in 1967).
Tigers closer Shane Greene, pitched a flawless seventh. He was the only AL pitcher who did not record a strikeout Tuesday night.
Going back to 1997 — the last Midsummer Classic in Cleveland — the AL is 19-3-1. That win in 1997 began a streak of 13 straight All-Star Games without a loss for the AL (1997 through 2009), though that included a tie in 2002. The longest “uninterrupted” All-Star win streak is 11, accomplished by the NL from 1972-82.
Here are the position players the fans chose to start the Midsummer Classic for the American League and National League. They were the winners after two rounds of voting — the first to determine the finalists at each position, the second to decide who will take the field on at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
Starting the All-Star Game
AL — Gary Sanchez, Yankees (1st ASG start): Sanchez ranks second in the AL with 23 home runs, one behind teammate Edwin Encarnacion, and he’s the only backstop with 20-plus this year. He helped carry the NYY’s lineup through Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s absences, and he’s already exceeded his home run total from the 2018 season. (Runners-up: James McCann, CWS; Robinson Chirinos, HOU)
NL — Willson Contreras, Cubs (2nd ASG start): Contreras has been voted the NL starter at catcher for a second year in a row. His .300 batting average, .395 on-base percentage, .586 slugging and .981 OPS are all personal bests, while his 17 home so far could best his previous single-season high (21 in 2017). The Cubs catcher made a scene in his All-Star debut last year, homering off eventual AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. (Runners-up: Brian McCann, ATL; Yasmani Grandal, MIL)
AL — Carlos Santana, Indians (1st ASG start): At long last, Santana is an All-Star. It’s the first time in his 10-year MLB career, after 1,356 games — which was the fifth-most for any active player with no All-Star selections. Not only that, Santana will be the first Indians first baseman to start the All-Star Game in 20 years. That first baseman? Jim Thome in 1999. Santana has posted a career-high .951 OPS this season in his return to Cleveland, and his 18 home runs lead the team. Santana got 93% of the vote from the Cleveland market, tied for the most any finalist received from anywhere. (Runners-up: Luke Voit, NYY; C.J. Cron, MIN)
NL — Freddie Freeman, Braves (2nd ASG start): Freeman will start the Midsummer Classic for a second straight season — he was the NL’s cleanup hitter last year — and this is his third All-Star Game appearance overall. The vote was a nail-biter, however. Freeman had the smallest margin of victory of any winner, beating out Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell by fewer than 17,000 total votes. One of the most consistent hitters at his position year in and year out, he’s having one of the best seasons of his career in 2019. Freeman is batting .312 with 22 homers — already within one of his 2018 season total — and a personal-best .994 OPS. Last year’s NL hits leader, Freeman is tied for the lead again in 2019, with an even 100. (Runners-up: Josh Bell, PIT; Anthony Rizzo, CHC)
AL — DJ LeMahieu, Yankees (2nd ASG start): LeMahieu gets the chance to start an All-Star Game in both leagues. He started the 2015 Midsummer Classic while with the Rockies, and now he’ll start for the AL in his first season as a Yankee. (LeMahieu was an All-Star in 2017, too, but didn’t play in the game.) In his pinstripes debut, he’s leading the AL batting race with a .336 average. That gives LeMahieu a chance to become the first player in the modern era to win a batting title in both leagues, after he took home the NL crown in 2016 with Colorado. The Rockies fans still love LeMahieu — he got 66% of the AL second base vote from the Colorado market. (Runners-up: Jose Altuve, HOU; Tommy La Stella, LAA)
NL — Ketel Marte, D-backs (1st ASG start): Marte had never before been an All-Star — but he’d also never hit 20 home runs like he has this year, including a 482-foot blast on May 28 that set the D-backs’ Statcast record (their longest since 2015). Marte’s 20 homers in 2019 are as many as he hit in the 345 games he played over the previous three seasons. The 25-year-old is also tied for the NL lead with 100 hits, along with Freeman. Still, Marte’s starting nod may not have been possible without an assist from his teammates, who dressed in Marte’s signature flashy style to help campaign for the breakout star. (Runners-up: Ozzie Albies, ATL; Mike Moustakas, MIL)
AL — Alex Bregman, Astros (1st ASG start): Last year, in his first career All-Star Game, Bregman was the game’s MVP. His tiebreaking home run in the 10th inning helped lead the AL to an 8-6 win. Now he’s a first-time starter. With teammates Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa all missing significant time due to injury this season, Bregman has been the rock of the Astros’ lineup. His 22 home runs are the most among third basemen and put him just two off the overall AL lead, and he’s also walked 59 times to just 46 strikeouts. (Runners-up: Hunter Dozier, KC; Gio Urshela, NYY)
NL — Nolan Arenado, Rockies (3rd ASG start): Arenado is an All-Star for a fifth consecutive season, and he’ll be starting a third straight All-Star Game, making him the first NL third baseman to do so since Scott Rolen from 2002-04. He did so by earning the highest vote share of any finalist, drawing 51.9% of the votes among NL third base finalists. An offensive and defensive superstar, Arenado has won four straight Silver Sluggers and six straight Gold Gloves at third base. He hasn’t missed a beat in 2019, leading NL third basemen with 19 homers and posting career bests in batting average (.317) and OPS (.953). (Runners-up: Josh Donaldson, ATL; Kris Bryant, CHC)
AL — Jorge Polanco, Twins (1st ASG start): This won’t just be Polanco’s first All-Star start, it’ll be his first All-Star Game, period. The Twins shortstop has been a cornerstone for the first-place Twins this season, ranking among the AL batting leaders at .321 and already close to setting a new career high in homers with 11. Polanco is set to become the first Twins player to start an All-Star Game since franchise icon Joe Mauer in 2013. The Twins faithful showed up big for their shortstop — Polanco got 93% of the vote from the Minnesota market, as high a share as any All-Star candidate got from a single voting bloc. (Runners-up: Gleyber Torres, NYY; Carlos Correa, HOU)
NL — Javier Baez, Cubs (2nd ASG start): Baez is an All-Star starter for a second straight season, but at a different position, second base. That makes Baez the first player in history to start consecutive All-Star Games at both middle-infield spots, and it fits perfectly for Baez: El Mago can do it all. He’s one of baseball’s most exciting players, and he’s continued to be every bit the superstar he was in his MVP runner-up 2018. The 26-year-old has 19 homers, most among NL shortstops and tied with Gleyber Torres for the MLB lead at the position. As the NL’s leadoff hitter in last year’s Midsummer Classic, Baez lined a base hit off Chris Sale on the very first All-Star Game pitch he saw. One interesting note about Baez’s 2019 starter election: He got 66% of the NL shortstop vote from the St. Louis market, even though he plays for the Cardinals’ biggest rivals. (Runners-up: Trevor Story, COL; Dansby Swanson, ATL)
Mike Trout, Angels (7th ASG start): He has now been voted an All-Star starter for seven years in a row, the longest active streak in baseball and a record for an Angels player, surpassing Rod Carew. He’s an eight-time All-Star overall, and it’s no surprise that Trout’s perennial MVP-caliber play extends to the Midsummer Classic. Fans overwhelmingly wanted to see Trout, giving him nearly a million votes (993,857) — the most of any finalist. Trout is one of five players to win two All-Star Game MVP Awards (2014, ’15), and he’s the only back-to-back All-Star Game MVP in the history of the Classic.
George Springer, Astros (2nd ASG start): In his third consecutive All-Star Game, Springer reclaims his starting outfield spot (he started his first All-Star Game in 2017, but not last year). Even though he didn’t start last year, he had one of the biggest hits, going back-to-back with his Houston teammate Bregman in the 10th inning to lead the AL to victory. Springer has homered 18 times in just 51 games this season, and he might be MLB’s most dangerous leadoff hitter — no one has more leadoff home runs than Springer’s 29 since he really took over the role in 2016.
Michael Brantley, Astros (1st ASG start): He was a three-time All-Star over his 10 seasons in Cleveland, and now he will return to Progressive Field as an All-Star starter for Houston. It’s clear that Indians fans still view Brantley with fondness, as he got more support from the Cleveland market (a 27% vote share) than from any other, including Houston (21%). That support helped Brantley edge out the Yankees’ Aaron Judge by fewer than 36,000 votes for the third AL outfield spot. Not only will Brantley go into this year’s contest with a two-year All-Star Game hitting streak, but he also is the only player to have recorded a base hit in both the 2017 and ‘18 games.
Outfield runners-up: Aaron Judge, NYY; Mookie Betts, BOS; Eddie Rosario, MIN; Joey Gallo, TEX, Austin Meadows, TB; Josh Reddick, HOU
Christian Yelich, Brewers (1st ASG start): Yelich has been on one of the hottest stretches in recent memory — a run that began, coincidentally, just following last year’s All-Star Game, when he was a first-time All-Star as a reserve for the NL and homered off Charlie Morton in the eighth inning. Since the second half of last season, Yelich has homered 54 times in 139 games, and his 29 homers this year have him on pace to chase 60. Yelich is the Major League leader in home runs, slugging percentage (.719) and total bases (200), and to top it all off, he’s just off the NL lead in steals (17). His 930,577 total votes led all NL finalists.
Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (1st ASG start): The 2017 NL Rookie of the Year is enjoying an MVP-caliber season. Bellinger and Yelich have been going swing for swing all year. Yeli has the MLB lead in homers; Belli leads the batting race. The Dodgers star has a .354 batting average, and he was hitting .400 as late as May 21. Bellinger’s 26 homers are second only to Yelich, but his 1.163 OPS is the best in baseball. Now a second-time All-Star, Bellinger will get a chance to record his first hit in the Midsummer Classic.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves (1st ASG start): The Braves phenom has followed up his NL Rookie of the Year performance in 2018 with his first career All-Star nod. Acuña rounds out an NL outfield full of young superstars — Yelich is the oldest at 27, Bellinger is 23 and Acuña is just 21. They’re all first-time starters, too. In fact, Acuña will become the first player to start an All-Star Game at age 21 or younger since Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in 2013.
Outfield runners-up: Charlie Blackmon, COL; Nick Markakis, ATL; Jason Heyward, CHC; Kyle Schwarber, CHC; Albert Almora Jr., CHC; Joc Pederson, LAD
AL — Hunter Pence, Rangers (1st ASG start): A right groin strain sent him to the injured list on June 17, though he could be ready to return soon. Pence hit just .226/.258/.332 for the Giants in ‘18, then had a Minor League contract with Texas in the offseason, but the 36-year-old now holds career highs in slugging (.608) and OPS (.962), and his 15 home runs are his best since ’14. Pence’s first All-Star selection came 10 years ago, and he is the only player on either roster from 2009 to be voted in as a starter this season. (Runners-up: J.D. Martinez, BOS; Nelson Cruz, MIN)
Below is a breakdown of voting totals and percentages for all the Starters Election finalists:
1) Mike Trout (Angels): 25.5% — 993,857 votes
2) George Springer (Astros): 15.7% — 610,751
3) Michael Brantley (Astros): 10.8% — 419,792
4) Aaron Judge (Yankees): 9.9% — 383,940
5) Mookie Betts (Red Sox): 9.1% — 354,318
6) Eddie Rosario (Twins): 8.9% — 348,176
7) Joey Gallo (Rangers): 7.8% — 305,012
8) Austin Meadows (Rays): 6.5% — 251,993
9) Josh Reddick (Astros): 5.9% — 229,009
1) Christian Yelich (Brewers): 22.3% — 930,577 votes
2) Cody Bellinger (Dodgers): 21.0% — 875,017
3) Ronald Acuña Jr. (Braves): 15.0% — 627,769
4) Charlie Blackmon (Rockies): 12.6% — 523,942
5) Nick Markakis (Braves): 8.2% — 342,988
6) Jason Heyward (Cubs): 6.5% — 273,039
7) Kyle Schwarber (Cubs): 5.3% — 222,931
8) Albert Almora Jr. (Cubs): 5.0% — 210,601
9) Joc Pederson (Dodgers): 4.0% — 167,645