Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks

HBT All-Star Game live blog

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UPDATE: Wilson gets Paul Konerko to ground out to end it. The National League wins 5-1. They will have home field advantage in the World Series for the second straight season. Thanks for hanging out, everyone. Stay tuned for a recap.

11:25 PM: Hey, did you guys know that Brian Wilson has a beard?

11:23 PM: Joel Hanrahan with some vintage Pirates’ action with that ugly throw backing up home plate. Brian Wilson coming on for the final two outs.

11:19 PM: Aw, we just witnessed Starlin Castro’s first error in an All-Star Game. Adorable.

11:18 PM: Hanrahan sets aside Michael Young, team player for the first out.

11:16 PM: So is the Arizona crowd rooting for Joel Hanrahan to give up four runs here so that Miguel Montero can get his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth?

11:13 PM: Gio Gonzalez does his job at Ron Washington’s LOOGY, striking out Jay Bruce looking. It’s 5-1 NL headed into the top of the ninth.

11:09 PM: Ron Washington using two starters (Alexi Ogando and Gio Gonzalez) here in the bottom of the eighth. How counterintuitive.

11:00 PM: Heath Bell really hamming it up here. I’m sure his agent appreciated the Todd Coffey-like sprint and eventual slide.

10:57 PM: That’s what this game needs. More Zooey Deschanel, please.

10:55 PM: Set up be an uncharacteristic passed ball by Matt Wieters, Brandon League gives up a ground-rule double to Pablo Sandoval that gives the NL a 5-1 lead. I told ya Kung-Fu Panda should have started this one!

10:49 PM: Hunter Pence is a darn good baseball player, but he always looks like a mess out there. All arms and legs.

10:48 PM: Michael Cuddyer in at first base for Miguel Cabrera, who apparently had stiffness in his side. Hopefully he’s not the latest victim in the “Year of the Oblique.”

10:41 PM: After walking Konerko, Craig Kimbrel gets Howie Kendrick to ground out to second base for the final out of the top of the seventh. It’s still 4-1 NL.

And here’s Michelle Branch to sing “God Bless America,” because only people from Arizona are allowed to sing in Arizona.

10:32 PM: And FOX predictably uses Kevin Youkilis as a promo for “Moneyball.” Not surprised, but this just doesn’t feel right.

10:30 PM: Jurrjens getting a second inning here. Interesting. And yes, another reliever (Brandon League) up for the AL. Which closer didn’t make the AL roster? Is Kevin Gregg pitching the eighth? These ridiculous pitching rules really need to change.

10:22 PM: Really cool stuff by Heath Bell. One of Omar Minaya’s greatest hits was sending him to San Diego with Royce Ring for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins. Who? Exactly.

10:16 PM: I want to give Ron Washington the benefit of the doubt in this game because of Josh Beckett’s knee, but then I remember that Ron Washington is in charge of the pitching staff.

10:09 PM: Andre Ethier knocks in Rickie Weeks to give the National league a 4-1 lead, cut down on the way to second base for the third out of the inning. Jair Jurrjens coming in for the National League in the top of the sixth. That’s right. A real, genuine starting pitcher. What a novel concept!

10:04 PM: Chris Perez up in the bullpen for the American League. Seriously? Another reliever? This is getting really silly.

10:00 PM: Scott Rolen just looked like he was in pain after being blown away on the strikeout. Probably his last at-bat of the evening, anyway.

9:56 PM: Jordan Walden in for the American League to start the bottom of the fifth. The way pitchers have been used in this game thus far, you’d think there is a severe shortage of starting pitchers in MLB.

9:54 PM: Joe Buck saying David Ortiz shouldn’t get rung up because it’s the All-Star Game. You mean we shouldn’t take this game seriously? It “counts,” doesn’t it? So conflicted.

9:49 PM: Hey Batting Stance Guy, somebody is stealing your schtick.

9:41 PM: Prince Fielder hits a three-run homer, Arizona now crowd cheering. No convictions. Pick a side, people.

9:38 PM: This conversation between Justin Timberlake and Mark Grace is awwwwkward. Don’t think Timberlake knows about Gracie’s recent DUI arrest. By the way, how many movies is this All-Star Game promoting? Losing count.

9:37 PM: Beltran reaches on an infield single. If only we had somebody to make a jump-throw. Oh, who am I kidding, Jeter would have never gloved that…

9:34 PM: Pence guns down Jose Bautista at the plate for the third and final out of the fourth. Would have been interesting if we had a collision there, huh? Alas, Bautista attempted a slide.

9:29 PM: Tyler Clippard’s kicks may be uglier than Cliff Lee’s. And that’s saying something.

9:26 PM: The American League is on the board. A solo homer by Adrian Gonzalez. That’s the first home run in an All-Star Game since 2008.

9:23 PM: Hunter Pence replaces Matt Holliday in left while Justin Upton replaces Lance Berkman in right field to begin the top of the fourth inning. Happy now, Arizona?

9:21 PM: Pineda was nasty, not surprisingly. Strikes out two in a scoreless inning. Pitching dominating early in the desert.

9:19 PM: It’s nice to see Scott Rolen and his .241 batting average start the All-Star Game. Anybody know the last guy to start an All-Star Game with a batting average that low?

9:15 PM: It’s Michael Pineda time, it’s Michael Pineda time!

9:12 PM: This is the part where many will ask, “Who the heck is Alex Avila?”

9:11 PM: Cliff Lee obviously stepped in some blue paint on the way to the mound tonight. Either that, or he’s a walking advertisement for the new “Smurfs” movie.

9:05 PM: Berkman had second base stolen on the strikeout, but came off the bag. Including the regular season, he’s now 0-for-4 on stolen base attempts. No score after two innings.

9:03 PM: And…Lance Berkman has our first hit of the evening.

9:01 PM: Jose Bautista doesn’t just hit home runs. An amazing catch in the right field corner. Good thing the Jays are using him at third base.

8:58 PM: Uh oh. Apparently Josh Beckett felt some soreness in his left knee while warming up, so David Robertson (!) will pitch the second inning.

8:56 PM: Adrian Beltre puts a charge in one, but makes the third out on a fly ball to the warning track in right. Halladay tosses two scoreless frames on 19 pitches. Cliff Lee will pitch the third for the NL squad.

8:55 PM: Jose Reyes hanging out with Shane Victorino in the NL dugout. Was also standing next to him in the player intros. As a Mets fan, this alarms me.

8:52 PM: Jose Bautista skies out on the first pitch. At this point, Roy Halladay should just say, “I got this, guys” and go all nine.

8:49 PM: Matt Kemp is our first baserunner of the night. And Prince Fielder is greeted with you guessed it, more boos. Hey Arizona, do you want the National League to win?

8:47 PM: Beltran tanking it in the All-Star Game to affect his trade value. #blamebeltran

8:44 PM: I’m pretty sure Brian Wilson is going to stash Carlos Beltran is in his beard.

8:41 PM: Adrian Gonzalez grounds out to complete a 1-2-3 top of the first. The Home Run Derby obviously messed up his swing.

8:39 PM: One pitch, one out. Curtis Granderson didn’t read Moneyball.

8:37 PM: Michael Cuddyer announcing the lineup for the American League. He’s versatile.

8:31 PM: This crowd quite enjoyed Jordin Sparks’ rendition of the National Anthem. But she’s from Arizona, so that makes sense. Anyhow, let’s play ball already!

8:24 PM: This Arizona crowd is still really giving it to Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. And well, everyone except Justin Upton, Miguel Montero and Kirk Gibson. They seem to like Josh Hamilton a little bit, too. Weird stuff.

8:19 PM: Win the Home Run Derby, bat eighth. Funny how that works.

8:17 PM: Gee, lots of Giants at this game. It’s almost like their manager is choosing…oh right.

8:13 PM: The player intros have always been my favorite part of the All-Star Game. Yankees always booed, pin drops for Aaron Crow.

8:11 PM: Joe Buck must have the Mets’ doctors looking after his vocal cords. Seriously, is he OK?

8:09 PM: Brad Pitt is narrating this opening montage. I wonder if he has a movie coming out soon…

8:07 PM: I think we should get a petition started banning Smash Mouth from All-Star competition.

8:00 PM: You might not realize this, but I was this close to being named an injury replacement for the National League All-Star team. Unfortunately I finished sixth on the player ballot for third base. Anyhow, since I won’t be attending the game, I figured a live blog would have to suffice.

Tune in right here for my random thoughts and observations throughout the evening. Feel free to join the conversation in our comments section. I’m setting the over/under on complaints about Joe Buck and Tim McCarver at 37.

Here are the lineups for tonight’s game, which will be rendered meaningless by the second or third inning:

American League: Curtis Granderson (CF), Asdrubal Cabrera (SS), Adrian Gonzalez (1B), Jose Bautista (RF), Josh Hamilton (LF), Adrian Beltre (3B), David Ortiz (DH), Robinson Cano (2B), Alex Avila (C)

National League: Rickie Weeks (2B), Carlos Beltran (DH), Matt Kemp (CF), Prince Fielder (1B), Brian McCann (C), Lance Berkman (RF), Matt Holliday (LF), Troy Tulowitzki (SS), Scott Rolen (3B)

And your All-Star Game Starting Pitchers:

Roy Halladay (NL) vs. Jered Weaver (AL)

Since this one “counts,” my official prediction is that the National League will secure home field advantage in the World Series for a second straight year. I’m a National League guy, though, so I’d probably say that even if they were running the Padres’ starting lineup out there. Let’s go, Kevin Correia!

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.