CLEVELAND — There’s been a lot of talk about juiced balls and a record home run pace this season, but there was little evidence provided Tuesday in the 90th All-Star Game at Progressive Field.
With pitching carrying the night, the American League scored early, added on late and held on to beat the National League 4-3 in front of 36,747 fans, notching its 14th victory in the last 17 Midsummer Classics.
The teams combined for 13 hits and five extra-base hits, including two home runs, while striking out 23 times — 16 from the NL.
All four Indians on the AL roster appeared in the game, with right-hander Shane Bieber delivering a performance that earned him the game’s MVP award.
Bieber started the fifth inning and struck out the side — starting NL players Wilson Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna Jr. — as the hometown crowd showered him with “Let’s Go Bieber” chants.
“It was electric out there, the fans got into it and it was fun. I’m glad that he got the MVP,” AL manager Alex Cora said. “His stuff plays at this level. He’s really good. There’s a reason the Indians are playing the way they’re playing, and he’s one of them.”
Starting first baseman Carlos Santana went 0-for-3, striking out in the fourth inning and getting robbed of a hit by the Dodgers’ Max Muncy in the sixth.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth and struck out on four pitches against Walker Buehler before grounding to third in the seventh.
Left-hander Brad Hand pitched the eighth inning, allowing the first two batters to reach on a leadoff walk and base hit. He retired a batter, then walked the bases loaded before striking out Charlie Blackmon.
Hand couldn’t emerge unscathed, though.
Pete Alonso sent a hard one-hop grounder that second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle to bring the NL within 4-3 before Hand got Mike Moustakas to pop out in foul territory.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman bailed out Hand in the ninth, striking out the side to earn his first All-Star save.
Chapman, who was the Cubs closer when they beat the Indians in the 2016 World Series, drew the most boos from the hometown crowd during pregame announcements. Fans chanted the name of former Indians outfielder Rajai Davis, who hit a game-tying homer off Chapman in Game 7, as the left-hander was trying to finish off the NL.
“Booing Chapman because he beat us in the World Series. They embraced him,” Lindor said. “They know, they’re very aware of what Chapman did against us. When a crowd boos somebody it’s not that they don’t respect him, it’s they’re a little bit upset that they did something right against us.
A pair of Houston Astros, including a familiar face for Indians fans — Michael Brantley — teamed to score the first run of the game off left-hander Clayton Kershaw in the the second inning.
Alex Bregman reached on an infield single with one out and after Gary Sanchez flied to center, Brantley drove a ball into the gap in left-center to score Bregman with a double.
Brantley got a rousing ovation when he was announced prior to the game and fans chanted his name from the left-field bleachers on multiple occasions.
“I got a great response and I’m so thankful for it,” Brantley said. “To come back to somewhere you played and played hard and played for a long time, to get that response means a lot. It means you’re doing things the right way.”
The AL went up 2-0 in the fifth after Sanchez led off with a double and scored two batters later on an infield single from Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco.
The NL got on the board in the sixth inning on a pinch-hit homer from Blackmon, but the AL answered in the seventh. Xander Bogaerts bounced into a double play with a runner on third to score a run and Joey Gallo followed with a pinch-hit homer on the first pitch from Will Smith to make it 4-1.
Both starting pitchers, the AL’s Justin Verlander and the NL’s Hyun-Jin Ryu, pitched an inning. Verlander retired the side in order, striking out the final two batters, while Ryu allowed a leadoff single to George Springer before retiring three straight, which included Santana on a grounder to short with Springer on third.
The NL got its first hit when Josh Bell beat out an infield single off Masahiro Tanaka with two outs in the second inning. Bell was originally ruled out by first base umpire Brian O’Nora, but the call was challenged and overturned.
The All-Star Game returned to Cleveland for the first time since 1997 and was a smashing was a smashing success from an Indians’ perspective.
“It was special to be at home and to be in front of the amazing fans that we have,” Lindor said. “It was a great event. It definitely was the best All-Star Game I’ve been to, and I thank the fans, they did it, and thank MLB and the city of Cleveland, everyone did an outstanding job today.”
NL manager Dave Roberts agreed.
“I thought the city of Cleveland did a fantastic job,” said Roberts, who spent parts of the first three seasons of his major league career with the Indians. “The logistics, the city, the weather, the fans, as far as the parade, during the game, attentive, cheering for past and present Indians and they were just really engaged. So, Major League Baseball and the city of Cleveland got it right.”
- Indians pitcher Shane Bieber goes from All-Star addition to MVP
- Jim Ingraham: Michael Brantley's return to Cleveland only reinforces the fact the Indians should have never let him go in the first place
- All-Star Game: Indians teammates show love, support for Carlos Carrasco in emotional moment
- All-Star Game notes: All-Star managers Dave Roberts and Alex Cora tied to Cleveland
- All-Star Game: Terry Francona relishes chance to relax, take in the show