WASHINGTON – It’s OK to strike out these days as long as you can hit a few over the fence. And everyone has a pitcher who throws 96 miles per hour.
So Tuesday’s All-Star Game was a celebration — or a grim reminder — of the feast-or-famine, power vs. power era this sport is in.
The Yankees’ Aaron Judge, baseball’s current Big Thing, began the homer barrage with a blast in the second inning. And the homers kept coming.
By the time the Midsummer Classic ended, a record 10 home runs were struck, five by each team, with the American League holding on for a 8-6 victory in 10 innings. The AL has won six consecutive All-Star Games.
Seattle’s Jean Segura appeared to put the game away in the eighth with a three-run shot off normally untouchable Brewers reliever Josh Hader. But the Reds’ Scooter Gennett struck a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off a 96-miles-per-hour fastball from Edwin Diaz, who has saved 35 games for the Mariners, to force the 13th extra-inning game in All-Star history and second in a row.
The power party didn’t stop, as back-to-back Astro blasts from Alex Bregman and George Springer in the 10th — part of three-run inning — finally put the NL away. Bregman was named the All-Star MVP for his clutch home run.
“To be able to hit the go-ahead homer, I’m on Cloud 9,” said Bregman, whose father is from the Washington, D.C., area.
Mike Trout also homered for the AL. Wilson Contreras, Trevor Story, Christian Yelich and Joey Votto went deep for the NL, but the AL now leads the all-time series 44-43-2.
When someone wasn’t homering, someone was striking out. There were 13 strikeouts through the first four innings, 21 through eight and 25 for the game.
With the possibility there will be more strikeouts than hits in the league this season for the first time, Tuesday’s developments weren’t surprising.
“Hey, that’s the All-Star Game,” Twins righthander Jose Berrios said. “That’s what everyone wants to see.”
Based on those standards, Berrios disappointed. He didn’t strike anyone out or give up a home run. But he had his own issues, as he had to face two fellow Puerto Ricans — his close friend Javier Baez of the Cubs and the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina.
Berrios grew up with Baez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and his wife’s sister is Baez’s fiancé. And his nerves regarding the situation were instantly revealed when his first pitch to Baez went to the backstop.
But Berrios got Baez to fly out to right field for the second out of the inning, and the two playfully motioned toward each other at the end of the at-bat. Molina blasted Berrios’ first pitch to the deepest part of the park, where Trout camped under it for the final out of the inning. Berrios and Molina playfully barked at each other as they headed for their respective dugouts.
“I was blown away by the sheer ability here,” AL manager A.J. Hinch of the Astros said. “And I loved the matchups. I loved the Berrios vs. Molina and the banter that comes with that.”
The pregame ceremony also was knocked out of the park during a celebration of baseball and patriotism.
A group of local choirs dressed in red, white and blue robes and formed a human flag. A group of 30 Medal of Honor recipients — spanning conflicts from Iwo Jima to Afghanistan — lined up across the infield and received thunderous applause. And a military flyover topped it all off as the announced crowd of 43,843 roared with delight.
Then Nationals star Max Scherzer took the mound and had the AL trailing his exhaust, striking out Boston’s Mookie Betts and Houston’s Jose Altuve to start the game while hitting 98 on the radar gun. But Judge homered off him in the second, followed by Trout’s homer off the Mets’ Jacob deGrom in the third.
The Cubs’ Contreras got the NL within 2-1 in the bottom of the inning when he hit Rays lefty Blake Snell’s first pitch of the night out to left, then Colorado’s Trevor Story lasered a 107-mph homer to left to score the game in the seventh.
But Hader, averaging a ridiculous 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings, gave up two singles then spun around in dismay as Segura hit a no-doubter out to left. The AL led 5-2 at the time, and Hader spent part of his postgame interview apologizing for several offensive tweets he wrote back in 2011-12 that resurfaced on Twitter during the game.
And the homers kept coming after that.
“Standard operation nowadays, right?” Hinch said. “We’re going to homer and punch out as an industry. At the beginning of the game it was like, ‘Man, is anyone going to get a hit other than a homer?’ At the end of the game, it was, ‘Are we going to have enough pitching to get out of this mess?’ ”