And That Happened: All-Star Game Edition

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If you followed along with our liveblog last night
some of this may be redundant for you, but I kept a quasi-running diary
of the All-Star game and here are some of my random observations:

Pregame

— I really enjoyed all of the presidents talking during the
Everyday All-Stars thing. Obama looks like he’s growing a little
mustache, which is quite stylish. George W. Bush looks more relaxed
than he’s been since his days as the Rangers’ owner, which is totally
understandable. Maybe it’s because he’s living with his dad now. At
least I assume he is, because both him and H.W. Bush were speaking from
the same room. Nice callback by Bush Sr. to the “thousand points of
light” thing, by the way. That’s like a rapper sampling Young M.C. or
something. Jimmy Carter is looking pretty spry. I think he’s going to
break Hoover’s record for the most post-presidency years alive. Very
underrated record, by the way.

— Sheryl Crow did a good job on the anthem. Very businesslike.
Hopefully the message is finally starting to get around that “The Star
Spangled Banner” is not some soul ballad.

— I liked Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Bruce Sutter and
Ozzie Smith in their red blazers, though as my wife pointed out, they
kind of looked like real estate agents.

— I also love me some Stan Musial, though seeing him come in via
the golf cart kind of reminded me of Ted Williams in the golf cart at
the All-Star game in Boston several years back. The next time we
thought of Williams after that was when he died and his son froze him
in carbonite or whatever the hell it was. Anyway, it was bittersweet
seeing Musial, knowing that we probably won’t see him in public again.

First Pitch:

— I LOVE that Obama came out in his White Sox jacket. Clinton would
have conducted focus groups before deciding what to wear. Bush would
have worn a bomber jacket or something. Obama is a fan, and no matter
what your politics are, you have to respect that. As for his pitch: Eh,
it was a lollipop job that made Tim Robbins in “Bull Durham” look like
Roger Clemens, but at least it made it to the plate on the fly. Unless
Greg Maddux ever becomes president, I think George W. is going to hold
the record for the sharpest Commander-in-Chief first pitch.

The Game:

— Lincecum plunked Jeter. Or at least so said Dana Demuth. I’ll
admit that my perception may have been a bit, um, impaired due to
pregame festivities at Chez Calcaterra, but from where I was sitting,
it looked like it hit the knob of the bat. Nice sales job by Jeter,
though. But some advice, Derek: next time don’t limp down to first base when the ball was supposed to have hit your wrist.

— Obama in the broadcast booth was pretty sweet. First he hated on the
Nationals, and then in response to a bail-out joke he said “we’re out
of money.” If nothing else you have to applaud him for his honesty. As
is always the case with a three man booth, however, we missed a lot of
action on the field while everyone was chatting. Roy Halladay was
roughed up and it might have been nice to hear someone talk about his
trade prospects and stuff.

— Third inning, and Ryan Franklin came in to pitch. Really, Charlie
Manuel? Ryan Franklin is the second guy out of the pen? Haven’t the
Cardinals fans had enough pandering over the past couple of days? Sure,
he sets the AL down 1-2-3 which makes me look like an idiot, but just
because something turned out OK doesn’t make it the right move in the
first instance.

(rest of the recap after the jump)

— I blinked twice and missed the entire half inning pitched by Mark
Buehrle. I really, really like that guy. I wish everyone pitched like
him.

— Based on the trailer, the “G.I. Joe” movie looks like the worst
piece of excrement ever committed to celluloid. They could have done
better by simply making a live-action version of that multi-part
episode of the cartoon where Shipwreck wakes up with amnesia and is
married with a family and everything. Don’t look at me that way. You know which one I’m talking about.

— Zack Greinke made David Wright and Shane Victorino look really,
really bad. Too bad his talents are being wasted in Kansas City.

— I’m really mad at Ichiro for fouling off the pitch on which Carl
Crawford was trying to steal, because I wanted to see a Molina vs.
Crawford showdown. Nice play by Chase Utley’s in the hole throwing out
Crawford at second, however.

— Jumping to the sixth inning, I feel it’s time to note, once
again, that Adam Jones is the spitting image of Eric Davis. By the way,
the game was humming right along at that point. Just think: if it
didn’t take 50 minutes to get through the pregame show, everyone on the
East Coast could have gone to bed at a decent hour.

— Pujols finished 0-3 with what proved to be a costly error, but he
had a couple of gems on defense as well. Albert: You’ve been a fabulous
host for two days, but the Cards need you healthy and rested for the
second half, so please do absolutely nothing today except sit in a
lounge chair and read magazines.

— Pujols being interviewed by Eric Karros:

Karros: So, does the best player in the game get butterflies?

Pujols: I don’t think I’m the best player in the game.

Karros: Albert, we are men of action. Lies do not become us.

OK, that’s not really what Karros said, but he should have.

— Carl Crawford’s snag of Brad Hawpe’s would-be homer was sweet,
and of course, ended up earning him the MVP. Lost in that was the fact
that Tejada nailed the next pitch off of Papelbon to the wall as well.
Buck called Papelbon “automatic” but he’s kind of scary if you ask me,
even if he is effective.

— Heath Bell is just a ridiculous oversized puppy dog of a human
being. He’s big and choppy and sloppy out there, like he’s with the
Gashouse Gorillas or something. Oh, and he gave up a triple to Curtis
Granderson. But let’s not blame Bell for that. Let’s blame Jayson
Werth, who failed to hit the cutoff man. If he had, Granderson possibly
stops at second or gets gunned down at third. Werth probably took the
roster slot that Matt Kemp should have had. One wonders if Kemp would
have missed the cutoff man.

— Granderson went on to score on the sac fly, making it 4-3 A.L.
with Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera waiting in the wings. It’s hindsight
now, but when I was watching last night I thought “uh-oh, game over.”

— And it was. Mariano Rivera entered the game in the ninth. The NL
knew what was coming and they couldn’t do anything about it:

— Upton grounded out . . .

— Hawpe struck out . . .

— Tejada popped out . . . ballgame.

The Upshot:

AL wins again, which is fairly depressing for an NL Fan like me.
Still, when you see Mariano Rivera closing it out, you have to
appreciate how the currents of history are flowing these days. In 50
years, people are going to think about the mid-90s to the late oughts
as a time when giants named Rivera and Jeter roamed the Earth, and
games like this one are going to help form the chronicle. To have
interlopers like Francisco Cordero and Brad Hawpe screw with that
narrative simply wouldn’t do, and NL fans have to accept that.

All in all a good game. Brisk. No silliness about everyone getting
playing time. Joe Maddon left three position players on the bench:
Carlos Pena, Nelson Cruz and Chone Figgins. Manuel left Hunter Pence
and Freddy Sanchez. Each had multiple pitchers left. At no point did it
feel like a Little League game, which is more than I can say for some
of the past few years. It felt like real baseball and looked like real
baseball. I don’t have any complaints.

Now, if we can manage through one more day without baseball, we’ll all be OK.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.