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2018 All-Star Game: American League wins home run extravaganza

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The 2018 All-Star Game was a reflection of its time. It was full of homers and devoid of most other action. In the end, though, it was a baseball game, and when the dust settled the American League prevailed 8-6, taking its sixth Midsummer Classic in a row and taking the all-time All-Star Game lead, 44-43-2 against the Senior circuit.

Every run save one scored on a homer. Ten were hit, in fact, shattering an All-Star Game record set back in 1971, when six were hit. The men going deep in this one: Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Willson Contreras, Trevor Story, Jean Segura, Christian Yellich, Scooter Gennett, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Joey Votto. All were solo shots except for Segura’s and Gennett’s, with the former being three-run shot off of Josh Hader in the eighth and Gennett’s a two-run shot off of Edwin Diaz which sent things into extra innings.

The American League struck back quickly in the 10th, however, with Alex Bregman and George Springer hitting solo shots to lead off the inning. They were both hit off of Ross Stipling, pitching in his second inning, under the supervision of his own manager, Dave Roberts. One wonders how much of Roberts’ decision to keep Stripling in was a function of him not wanting to anger his fellow NL managers by using their pitchers’ arms in an extra inning contest. No one wants a pitcher overworked, but Roberts sticking with his own guy is something that would be worth questioning if someone cared enough to question strategy in an All-Star Game.

The American league scored a final run off of Stripling, this off of a Michael Brantley sac fly following a couple of singles. Who knew you could score by means other than the long ball?

In the bottom of the tenth the American League sent J.A. Happ to the mound to save it. Joey Votto led things off with a first pitch homer to right field to bring the Nationals to within two. That was all they’d get, however, as Happ retired Yelich, Charlie Blackmon and Lorenzo Cain to close it out.

Alex Bregman won the All-Star Game Ted Williams MVP Award, by virtue of his homer being the one that put the A.L. ahead for good. It would’ve been Segura’s for that three-run dinger if it had ended up being decisive, but those are the breaks in the All-Star Game. Bregman had a choice of a Chevy Truck or a Camaro for the All-Star Game prize. He picked the Camaro and said he’d give it to his mom. I sorta wanna meet Bregman’s mom now. That’s probably another blog post.

In any event, eleven runs were scored after the seventh inning. Some of the best drama of the night involved a transaction, not game action. It was a weird night of baseball, frankly, but if you dig the longball, it was right up your alley.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.