The MLB All-Star Game returned on Tuesday after skipping the 2020 pandemic year, and the American League picked up right where they’d left off in their dominance of the National League.
The AL won 5-2 at Coors Field, their eighth straight victory in the Midsummer Classic dating back to 2013. Stretch it back to 1997, and the AL has won 20 of the past 24 games, with the NL taking three, and one ending in a tie.
Both Oakland A’s representatives got to play, though neither had their best day. Matt Olson entered as the first baseman in the bottom of the 5th and got two at-bats, striking out both times. He did squeeze all nine putout chances on defense, including a couple throws from former teammate Marcus Semien of the Blue Jays!
Marcus Semien ➡️ Matt Olson— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
Just like the good ol' days pic.twitter.com/BZNywktxV6
One of Olson’s strikeouts came at the hands of Freddy Peralta of the Brewers, and the other was by Zach Wheeler of the Phillies.
Oly goes down swinging in his first AB pic.twitter.com/TI65GQW2hb— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
Meanwhile, Chris Bassitt pitched the bottom of the 6th inning for the AL, and technically he finished it without allowing an earned run. But he did get himself into some trouble, and an unearned run crossed the plate.
First up was Brandon Crawford of the Giants, who popped out on three pitches.
C-Bass got Brandon Crawford to pop out for his first ASG out pic.twitter.com/AYwJNloHyb— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
Next Justin Turner of the Dodgers grounded out, with Olson receiving the throw at first base.
C-Bass got Justin Turner out next pic.twitter.com/zENEsMS7UA— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
Six pitches in the right-hander was rolling toward a clean inning, but then Manny Machado of the Padres stung a sharp single. Bassitt’s control then got a bit wobbly, and he walked Jake Cronenworth of the Padres and Juan Soto of the Nationals to load the bases. Danger!
He settled down a bit and got to 0-2 on Kris Bryant of the Cubs, but then buried a slider so far into the dirt that his catcher, Mike Zunino of the Rays, let it skip by. Machado scored from third, and the play was ruled a passed ball, which means it was officially Zunino’s fault. (Zunino made up for it by hitting a monster homer a few minutes earlier.)
This was a passed ball -- blame it on Zunino! pic.twitter.com/3dWoyNYQ9L— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
Bassitt rebounded on the next pitch to strike out Bryant and end the frame.
Chris Bassitt strikes out Kris Bryant to cap off his outing pic.twitter.com/EziJQSPEZW— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
Not the best box score lines, and more pitches than I was hoping Bassitt would throw.
- Olson: 0-for-2, 2 Ks
- Bassitt: 1 ip, 1 run (unearned), 1 K, 2 BB, 1 hit, 24 pitches, 88.7 mph EV
On the bright side, their team won the game, Olson played flawless defense, and Bassitt allowed no earned runs and retired the only Giant he faced. That’ll do!
It was mildly surprising to see Bassitt pitch at all, since he started the A’s game last Sunday. In the past, pitchers who’d worked Sunday were disallowed by rule from playing two days later in the exhibition game, but now they get to choose and Bassitt opted in. Tom Verducci explained on the Fox broadcast (h/t Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports):
“Chris Bassitt pitched Sunday for the Oakland A’s and he volunteered to pitch today,” Verducci said. ”Of course, most guys will not pitch in this game if they pitch on Sunday. I asked him why. He said ‘I don’t know if I will ever be back here again.’ “
Spoken like a true Wave Rider.
Oly and C-Bass ready to rep the A's pic.twitter.com/s3MVVnoGIB— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 14, 2021
As for the rest of the game, click here to see the full box score. The AL opened the scoring in the 2nd inning, and then Vladimir Guerrero Jr of the Blue Jays hit a 468-foot moonshot to push the lead to 2-0. Guerrero drove in another run in his next at-bat on a productive groundout, and his 2 RBI earned him Game MVP honors. The 22-year-old is the second-youngest player ever to homer in the All-Star Game, after Johnny Bench in 1969.
The NL did make a little noise, with a solo homer by J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies, and then their unearned run off Bassitt. The dingers by Realmuto and Zunino called back another record involving Bench in 1969, as it’s only the third time that both leagues had a catcher go deep in the game.
In the 9th inning Liam Hendriks of formerly the A’s and now the White Sox came in to lock down the save, despite some traffic on the bases. Better yet, some nincompoop at Fox thought it would be a good idea to mic up Hendriks while he was pitching on live national TV, and it went ... exactly like you would expect if you’ve ever seen him pitch before.
Liam Hendriks, live on Fox tonight b/c they mic'd up a closer while pitching:— Alex Hall (@AlexHallAN) July 14, 2021
- "Goddamn it!"
- "God, fuck!"
- "Goddamn, fuck this!"
Best part was when catcher Mike Zunino came out to remind him he was mic'd up, and Hendriks replied that he didn't think the mic was working.
It had already been a good game, but the candid experience of Hendriks’ mic was the cherry on top, especially when he confirmed in his post-game interview that he thought the equipment wasn’t working and didn’t know anybody could hear him. If only they’d tried this with Grant Balfour when he was in the majors; maybe they can get him to pitch in the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game next summer?
Overall, this was a fun All-Star Game, made even better by the players all visibly having an absolute blast!
My only gripe is that the uniforms were awful. One of the most magical parts of this event used to be seeing all the players on the field together in their real team jerseys, with all those colors meshing together in a fashion that no other game can offer. It helped drive home how you were watching the best of the best from all around the majors, and you got the extra burst of pride when you noticed your club’s player(s) amid the crowd. Heck, it made everybody easier to identify in a contest that features around 60 players.
This year each league got its own standard uniform, which was already a bad call to begin with, and to make it worse they were bad. The white NL version looked like when a webpage doesn’t load all the way so the formatting is all messed up and the text is weird sizes and the images are in the wrong places, but if you just hit refresh once it’ll reload and look like a normal jersey design that doesn’t suck. The blue AL version looked like Union Civil War soldiers who got uploaded into the Tron universe.
But hey, there’s no accounting for taste. Otherwise, good game all around, even if it could’ve used one or two more A’s!