MIAMI – When it was over, when Robinson Cano slugged a tiebreaking home run and Andrew Miller struck out Cody Bellinger for the final out of the American League’s 2-1 victory in the 88th All-Star Game, the trio of Twins participants got to enjoy an experience they’ll never forget.
Ervin Santana was relieved the home run he allowed to Yadier Molina in the sixth inning didn’t cost the AL its winning streak, which has now stretched to five in a row and 15 of the past 18 All-Star Games. Miguel Sano was pumped about his All-Star hit and an All-Star RBI, even if it was on a pop-up, and that “my main guy Robbie Cano, from San Pedro de Macoris, makes me so happy.”
And Twins closer Brandon Kintzler, a refugee from independent ball not so long ago? “I’m a fan. I’m a fan who got to pitch in the game,” he said. “I appreciate that.”
The All-Star Game matched the sport it represents in a lot of ways Tuesday — lots of strikeouts, 23 altogether, and offenses that relied on home runs but didn’t provide much in the way of run scoring. And in the middle of it all, amid the carnival atmosphere of Marlins Park, a mini-Twins game broke out in the middle innings.
Sano, inserted at third base for starter Jose Ramirez in the fourth inning, drove in the game’s first run in the fifth, popping up a two-out fastball from Dodgers lefthander Alex Wood but watching it drift to the perfect spot along the foul line in shallow right field. Two Nationals — right fielder Bryce Harper and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman — couldn’t reach it, and the Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop scored easily, spotting the AL — and Kintzler, as it turned out, who came to pitch the bottom of the fifth — to a 1-0 lead.
“How awesome was that? It felt like home,” Kintzler exclaimed afterward. “It kind of upped the energy for me — a 1-0 lead, it felt like I was in a real situation.”
The situation was plenty real for Sano, who said he wanted to put something positive on his record in his first All-Star experience. He did it, giving Twins hitters four hits in their past five All-Star plate appearances (including Brian Dozier’s 2014 homer and Joe Mauer singles in 2012 and 2013). His hit was a pop-up Tuesday, but years from now, who knows?
“I’m so happy because I know a lot of players that have like five All-Stars [appearances] and had never hit a base hit. I’ve got an RBI,” the Home Run Derby runner-up said. “I hit the ball and wanted to see where it is. I [thought] foul ball, then I saw it on the line.”
Kintzler took over for the AL and needed only 11 pitches to mow down Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart, Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, all on ground balls. Stanton, who fizzled in the Derby and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his hometown All-Star Game, clearly wanted to make a big impact. Instead, he ticked a Kintzler sinker about six feet to end the inning.
“I knew he wanted to do something,” Kintzler said unapologetically. “But I’ve faced that guy so many times, I was actually, believe it or not, happy to see him come up.”
Santana took over for his closer in the sixth inning, and after retiring Bellinger on a grounder, tried a 95-miles-per-hour fastball, low and away, to Molina. It wasn’t even a mistake, Santana said, but it didn’t end well.
“It was a good pitch, down and away. But he’s a diver. He dived down there and made good contact,” said Santana, who became the first Twins pitcher to allow an All-Star Game home run since Rick Aguilera gave up one to Will Clark in 1992. It was his second home run allowed in two All-Star appearances, too; he surrendered one to the Rockies’ Matt Holliday in 2008 while with the Angels. “Yadier is a good hitter. He’s got power.”
Nobody else went deep until Cano connected off Cubs closer Wade Davis in the 10th inning, slapping a home run into the NL bullpen and leaving the Twins with great memories of their All-Star experience.
“There are some superstars in here,” Kintzler said, still sounding incredulous. “I’ll never forget it. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to one — that’s why I wanted to stay and watch the end.”