After a nearly 14-year losing skid, the National League All-Stars have officially started a new streak.
Reversing a trend that began in the 1990’s just two years ago at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, the N.L. went to work early on Tuesday night, winning their third straight Mid-Summer Classic in an 8-0 laugher in Kansas City.
Coming into the break with a 9-5 record and a 2.58 ERA, American League starting pitcher and Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander did not earn his stripes this evening.
He pitched only one inning and surrendered two walks and five earned runs in a performance that sealed his league’s fate before national anthem singer Luke Bryan could finish the word “brave.”
It was widely speculated around the league that San Francisco Giants fans “cheated” the All-Star voting system, liberally using internet voting to secure spots for a number of Giants players, including third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who started over a probably more deserving David Wright.
Sandoval quickly showed the importance of voting early and often, hitting the first bases loaded triple in All-Star Game history off of Verlander in the first inning to put the National League ahead 4-0. Giants players would drive in five of the N.L.’s eight runs.
On the mound, the National League pitchers were masterful. With such a deep bullpen allowing relief pitchers to go all-out against the one or two batters they faced, flamethrowers like Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman proved to be particularly devastating, both topping out at over 100 miles-per-hour in the eighth inning.
In one particular at bat, Kimbrel’s repertoire was just too much for American League hitting.
Having blown a 100 mile-per-hour fastball by Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians to get ahead 0-2, Kimbrel unleashed a filthy backdoor curveball at 87 miles-per-hour that caused Cabrera’s knees to buckle and the American League’s hopes to fade even further.
The American League All-Stars barely even let out a whimper all evening on offense. Only one player on the entire roster, 20 year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout, was able to reach base twice as the team scratched together a meager five hits on the night.
The sole high point of the American League team may have been its home fans. The American League faithful (a.k.a. the Kansas City Royals faithful) showed their class throughout this All-Star week, which is typically the norm for loyal Midwest fan bases.
Last night, American League Home Run Derby captain Robinson Cano heard deafening boos after failing to pick Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, who has 16 home runs on the season, to be on the four-man squad. An airplane message even reiterated the message before first pitch, declaring, “Congrats, Billy! You blew it, Cano!”
The boos quickly turned into cheers as a jet-lagged Cano failed to clear the fences once.
Still, the Royals fans stuck around to cheer on the rest of their American League brethren, applauding Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder as he hoisted his second Home Run Derby trophy.
Their biggest throwback, class-act moment, however, came on Tuesday night when Chipper Jones stepped up to the plate in the top half of the sixth.
This would be Jones’ only at-bat in his last All-Star Game, and the 40,000-plus on hand certainly made it a momentous occasion, rising to their feet for a thunderous standing ovation. The curtain call received an audible, “Wow!” and a tip of the cap from the usually unsentimental Jones, who would later poke a single to the right side.
Aside from saying goodbye to a first ballot Hall of Famer and showcasing a beautiful, often overlooked Kauffman Stadium, this All-Star break in Kansas City served as an opportunity for the National League to start a dynasty of its own.