SAN DIEGO — The American League beat the National League 4-2 in the 87th All-Star Game Tuesday night at Petco Park, concluding a successful run over three days here. But there’s more than just the final score worth noting. Here are a few intriguing observations from the Midsummer Classic.
Bryce Harper stayed in the dugout: A little secret of the All-Star Game is that, quite frequently, starters who are removed from the lineup shower and get dressed, sometimes heading for the airport before the game is over. The reason is simple: Why not try to squeeze in as much break as you can into their all-star break?
Harper, though, is different. In each of his four all-star appearances, he has remained in the dugout until the final out.
“You want to enjoy that,” Harper said. “You want to be there.”
So as the NL tried to come back – with Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz coming up with the bases loaded and two outs, or Rockies third baseman Nolan Arrenado up with a man on in the ninth – Harper was on the top step. He also indicated he had volunteered to be the NL’s designated player who could re-enter the game if there was an ejection or injury.
“Diaz going up there with the bases loaded, you want to be there trying to support your guy, as well as Nolan going up there with a guy on first base and possibly being able to hit a homer to tie things up,” Harper said. “And also with that re-entry rule, you could possibly get back in that game. So stay down there, stay loose and stay going.”
Mets Manager Terry Collins used no Mets: The defending National League champions sent three players to the game – pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia. Even before the game, they knew Syndergaard, who has been dealing with an elbow issue, wouldn’t be available. But Collins could have used one of his other two players – and didn’t.
“I came in here with one major thing in mind and that was I wanted to make sure that every team got represented on the field,” Collins said. He did that, except for his own.
Collins’s reasoning: Had the NL led the game in the ninth inning, he was going to use Familia, who has a major-league best 31 saves without blowing any opportunities, to close it out. But they trailed, and therefore didn’t get a chance to send out a pitcher in the ninth. And Collins was holding back Colon for extra innings in case he needed someone to pitch two or more frames.
The only other teams whose representatives didn’t appear in the game were Oakland (catcher Stephen Vogt) and Tampa Bay (pitcher Alex Colome).
Big Papi walks away: Several players, including Cubs lefty Jon Lester, speculated that David Ortiz would actually not retire – as he says he intends to do – following the season. That speculation is fueled by Ortiz’s incredible season, which could become among his best ever at age 40. He is hitting .332 and leads the AL in on-base percentage (.426), slugging percentage (.682) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.107), and has already driven in 72 runs in 81 games.
So what if the Red Sox call him next May, when he’s sitting on a beach in his native Dominican Republic, and say they could use a left-handed bat?
“I’m retiring,” Ortiz said. “There’s a lot of things going on, and the preparation has taken a lot away from me, and my body is kind of screaming at me like, ‘Dude, seriously?’”
Ortiz had one moment on the field Tuesday night in which Miami right-hander Jose Fernandez, who had told Ortiz he would throw him only fastballs, came at him with a 3-2 curveball, which Ortiz managed to lay off – then gestured jokingly at Fernandez. The other moment was orchestrated by AL Manager Ned Yost, who removed Ortiz for a pinch runner after he walked so he could get a standing ovation and hugs from all his teammates. Yost said, had Fernandez retired Ortiz, he would have sent Ortiz up to the plate for his next at-bat, but then pinch-hit for him prior to the first pitch, so he could have received a similar ovation.
The NL as an away team in its own park: The two hometown representatives, Padres Wil Myers and Drew Pomeranz, reported to Petco Park – and took a left turn to the visitors’ clubhouse. The National League team wore its road grays, and batted first, even though San Diego has always been an NL town.
This quirk was necessary because the All-Star Game is in a four-year run of NL parks – Cincinnati last year, San Diego, Miami in 2017 and Washington in 2018. Given that the game determines which league has home-field advantage in the World Series, MLB couldn’t award the NL team the last at-bat four straight years.
The fall-out: When Nationals Park hosts the game in two years, the NL team will bat first and technically be the “visitors.”
Ian Desmond is paying attention to Danny Espinosa: The former shortstop is now an all-star center fielder for Texas, and he went 0-for-1 in his first All-Star Game Tuesday. But he has long remained a fan of Espinosa, the player he annually blocked from playing shortstop in Washington, but who took over when Desmond departed.
Now, Espinosa has 18 first-half homers – more than any NL shortstop other than Colorado’s Trevor Story. Since May 31, he has hit .295 with a 1.039 OPS, with 13 homers and 31 RBI in 37 games.
“No one’s happier for him than I am,” Desmond said. “I believed in him the whole time. I’ve said that numerous times. I think this is just the beginning for him. I think he’s going to be a household name. I think he’s going to be who he thinks he can be. When other people start believing that, and I think Dusty [Baker] does, he’s going to shine.”