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And now the main event: the actual All-Star Game

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SAN DIEGO — We’ve had a couple of days of hype, but now we get an actual baseball game. At least insofar as you can call the All-Star Game real baseball. It certainly has its challenges in this regard, focused mostly on player usage, but unlike the other sports’ All-Star games, each individual interaction here — pitcher vs. batter and the reaction of defenders — is good and true. Unless of course Jose Fernandez has anything to say about it.

Before the game gets started there will still be some pomp circumstance and the like. A brief rundown:

  • The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by Padres (team) Hall of Famer and 1976 National League Cy Young Award Winner Randy Jones. Jones started for the National League in the 1976 All-Star Game and is a local institution here in San Diego;
  • The U.S. National Anthem will be performed by pop star Rachel Platten. The Tenors will perform the Canadian National Anthem. We will have no Dominican Republic or Venezuelan National Anthem, but we really should;
  • The giant flag will be held by 275 Marines. Unlike past displays of military appreciation and patriotic fervor at other ballparks, the military also happens to be the primary local industry here in San Diego, so it’s particularly appropriate here. We’ll also get a flyover of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
  • The official game ball will be delivered by Padres (team) Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. He’ll be a Baseball Hall of Famer one day too.
  • 2015-2016 Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year Whitney Stewart will yell “Play Ball!” prior to the game.

As a reminder, here are the lineups:

American League Lineup

1. Jose Altuve 2b
2. Mike Trout CF
3. Manny Machado 3B
4. David Ortiz DH
5. Xander Bogaerts SS
6. Eric Hosmer 1B
7. Mookie Betts RF
8. Salvador Perez C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. LF

Chris Sale of the White Sox gets the start.

National League Lineup:

1. Ben Zobrist 2B
2. Bryce Harper RF
3. Kris Bryant 3B
4. Wil Myers DH
5. Buster Posey C
6. Anthony Rizzo 1B
7. Marcell Ozuna CF
8. Carlos Gonzalez LF
9. Addison Russell SS

Johnny Cueto of the Giants is the starter.

As far as predictions go, eh, who knows? How do you predict this stuff? But let’s try:

Bill: National League 5, American League 3
Craig: American League 6, National League 4

Non-outcome prediction:

Bill: Stephen Vogt racks up 10 passed balls on Steven Wright‘s knuckleball
Craig: David Ortiz is named MVP of the game, even if he goes 0-for-3 and falls asleep during the game. Some things are pre-ordained.

Finally, go to NBC Sports’ Facebook page to go see my Livestream video from before the game here. Go there after the top of the fifth inning for a second livestream I’ll be doing from here at Petco during the game.

Play ball!

Twins reach historic home run total during 11-4 rout of White Sox

Max Kepler
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The Twins trampled the White Sox on Friday night, cruising to a cool 11-4 lead over their division rivals and collecting their sixth double-digit win of 2019. Even more impressive, they picked up their 99th, 100th, and 101st home runs, a feat that’s rarely been matched in a team’s first 50 games of any given season.

The first homer of the night was delivered by Eddie Rosario in the third inning. Working against a single-run deficit, Rosario lifted an 0-1 fastball from the White Sox’ Reynaldo López, planting it firmly in the left field stands and evening the score, 4-4. Two batters later, Rosario’s solo home run got a sequel: a 398-footer from Miguel Sanó, this one postmarked for the upper deck in left.

In the fourth, now leading 5-4, the Twins saw a third and final homer from the bat of Max Kepler, whose center-field blast traveled a projected 397 feet to give the club a two-run advantage. Per MLB Stats, the Twins’ record — 101 homers in 50 games — stands second only to that of the 1999 Mariners, who managed to club 102 home runs before their 51st game of the season.

While the record has undoubtedly been a team effort, Rosario leads the pack with a team-best 15 homers so far this year, closely followed by C.J. Cron (13), Max Kepler (11), and Jonathan Schoop (10). Sanó, whose solo shot marked the team’s 100th home run of 2019, has just five, though there’s little doubt he’ll reach double digits before the end of the season.

According to MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park, the Twins also made it to an even 300 runs scored in 2019, for a satisfying average of six runs per game and a new franchise record (previous high mark: 273 runs scored in 1992). With the win, they improved to 34-16 on the year and continue to hold a comfortable eight-game lead in the AL Central.