NL dominates in first All-Star shutout since 1996

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It was all National League, right from the start.

Pablo Sandoval and company jumped on Justin Verlander to take a 5-0 lead in the top of the first and cruised from there on the way to an 8-0 victory for the NL in the 83rd All-Star Game, the third straight win for the Senior Circuit.

Sandoval delivered the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star Game history in the first off Verlander. Giants teammate Melky Cabrera proved to be the game’s MVP. He singled and scored in the first and later hit a two-run homer in the fourth, concluding the scoring for the night.

Verlander joined Jim Palmer (AL, 1977), Tom Glavine (NL, 1992) and Roger Clemens (NL, 2004) as the only starters to give up at least five runs in an All-Star Game.

The shutout was the first since the NL blanked the AL 6-0 in 1996. The lone common player in that game and this one was Chipper Jones, who had a single tonight in his final All-Star appearance.

While this one was a rout, the National Leaguers did all of their scoring in two frames. Besides Verlander, only the Rangers’ Matt Harrison got hit, giving up three runs in the fourth. A’s rookie Ryan Cook was particularly impressive, striking out two in an 11-pitch seventh inning.

Matt Cain pitched two scoreless innings after getting the call to start for the NL team. Only Clayton Kershaw, who gave up two hits and a walk (one of the hits coming on a ball left fielder Bryce Harper lost in the lights), had to pitch his way out of trouble.

No American Leaguer had multiple hits, but rookie Mike Trout singled and walked. He also became the first baserunner all year to steal a base off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Besides the two Giants, the NL’s third offensive star was Ryan Braun, who doubled and tripled. The NL team had three triples in all; one apiece from Braun, Sandoval and Rafael Furcal.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.