Hours after an awesome Home Run Derby got everyone buzzing even louder about monster shots and juiced balls, only a couple flew out of Progressive Field in the All-Star Game.
Instead, Justin Verlander blazed 97 mph heat from the start, Shane Bieber and Aroldis Chapman each struck out the side and the American League slowed a loaded NL lineup 4-3 Tuesday for its seventh straight win.
”I know it’s the year of the home run, but pitching dominated today,” Colorado slugger Nolan Arenado said.
Sure did – at least until play resumes Thursday.
Facing Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and a bunch of boppers, the AL staff combined to strike out 16.
Derby champ Pete Alonso of the Mets grounded a two-out, two-run single past Gleyber Torres in the eighth to close the NL’s gap. After a double steal put runners at second and third against Cleveland reliever Brad Hand, White Sox catcher James McCann made a tumbling catch on Mike Moustakas’ twisting foul pop to end the inning.
Chapman closed to give the AL its 19th win in 22 games, with a tie stuck in there. He got a little encouragement with two outs – Yankees teammate CC Sabathia, honored this week for his contributions on and off the field, strolled to the mound to talk to the flamethrower.
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Chapman then struck out Yasmani Grandal for a save , giving the AL an overall 45-43-2 lead in the Midsummer Classic.
Major League Baseball is on a record-shattering pace for homers this season, but no one came close to clearing the walls until Charlie Blackmon connected in the NL sixth to make it 2-1. Texas’ Joey Gallo countered with a solo drive in a two-run seventh.
Still, it was a far cry from last year’s All-Star Game that featured a record 10 home runs.
Fittingly, the first batter of the game was the guy who leads the majors in home runs – Yelich, the NL MVP with 31 homers at the break, hit leadoff for the first time this year.
Yelich lined out and Verlander quickly fanned Javier Baez and Freddie Freeman to finish his work.
Those lively balls that Verlander is complaining about? Didn’t bother him a bit. NL starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, deGrom and Luis Castillo threw scoreless innings to keep the NL close in the early going.
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