Yasiel Puig and Jonathan Lucroy came to Target Field with plenty in common.
Both were All-Star invitees and in the midst of impressive seasons.
But that is where the similarities stopped. Puig, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 23-year-old outfielder, quickly has become an ultra-hyped national star and a popular jersey choice across the country.
Tucked in the heart of the Midwest, meanwhile, Lucroy quietly has made himself into one of the best hitters in the game. The Brewers catcher’s celebrity has been confined mostly to Milwaukee, where he plays.
Tuesday, however, served as Lucroy’s coming-out party, while Puig endured the most painful All-Star performance of the week. The Cuba native struck out three times after getting shut out in the Home Run Derby a night earlier.
After the game, Puig leaned against the visiting clubhouse wall, sunglasses perched atop his head and a big, gold necklace with a diamond-filled pendant in the shape of “66” around his neck.
“They were great pitches,” Puig said of his three whiffs through a translator. “These are the best pitchers in the American League so what are you going to do? ... If I get the opportunity next year, I think I’ll do better.”
Meanwhile, after replacing the injured Yadier Molina in the starting lineup, Lucroy smacked a pair of RBI doubles in as many at-bats to keep the National League in the game with the American League, which ultimately won 5-3. Lucroy became one of just three players — the others being Paul Konerko and Albert Pujols — to hit at least two doubles and also collect at least two RBI in an All-Star Game.
Target Field has been kind to Lucroy. Back in 2010, the Brewers catcher notched his first career hit in the majors off Nick Blackburn just after the glistening park opened that spring.
This season, he is second in the National League with 32 doubles and has a .315 batting average, fifth in the league.
Lucroy, his hair and beard both trimmed close, shrugged off his first All-Star performance in five years in the major leagues.
“Yeah, we’re kind of a jumble of players from different teams, but I was getting after it,” he said. “To me, the game is always the same. That’s what I was treating it like.”
If fans weren’t abundantly aware of Lucroy’s game before the All-Star Game, perhaps they’ll be a little more focused on the Midwestern slugger, whose strong year is starting to resemble an MVP campaign.
“I mean, people should already be paying attention to what he’s doing,” Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutcheon said. “He’s helping that team do what they’re doing right now. Offensively and defensively, he’s all-around really talented and he’s starting to put forth some really good numbers.”