MLB officially moves All-Star Game to Denver’s Coors Field

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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DENVER — Atlanta, you’re out. Denver, you’re up.

Major League Baseball swiftly moved the All-Star Game to hitter-friendly Coors Field on Tuesday after pulling the Midsummer Classic from Atlanta over objections to extensive changes to Georgia’s voting laws.

Coors Field last hosted the All-Star Game in 1998. The game will be held July 13.

“We appreciate their flexibility and enthusiasm to deliver a first-class event for our game and the region,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “We look forward to celebrating our sport’s best players and entertaining fans around the world.”

MLB decided to move the game from Truist Park in Atlanta in response to Georgia voting changes signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25. Critics, including the CEOs of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, have condemned the changes as being too restrictive.

The Georgia laws includes new limits on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run, amid a push in Republican-led states to reduce voting options after former president Donald Trump made baseless claims of widespread fraud in last year’s election.

Democratic state officials in Colorado have touted their state’s mail-in voting system, which began in 2013, for its ease and accessibility. In the November election, there were more than 350 ballot drop boxes around the state along with a ballot tracking system that allowed voters to trace their votes as they were accepted and counted.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold praised the MLB decision, crediting it to the state’s “national gold standard for elections.”

“We’ve got the most accessible and secure elections in the country, and are grateful that MLB is giving us the opportunity to showcase how elections can be!” Griswold said in a statement.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference that the state had expressed interest in hosting a game down the road, but when given the last-minute opportunity, Denver was able to make plans quickly. They already had a blueprint for handling hotels, event space and security.

“This is fundamentally about baseball and it’s about the fans. And I couldn’t be more excited that we’re gonna be able to highlight Denver as the venue,” Polis said.

It’s uncertain what kind of seating capacity there might be due to COVID-19 restrictions. For the season-opening series against the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the Rockies had a seating capacity of 21,363 fans, which was 42.6% of the usual capacity.

By July, Polis expects things to be different. He referenced President Joe Biden’s plan to allow all Americans who want to be vaccinated to be able to do so by May.

“We’re talking about a mid-July game so there are really no concerns from that front,” Polis said. “I think everybody expects a fully packed, sell-out stadium in July and that’s going to be good for MLB, good for Colorado and an exciting experience for fans.”

But it’s a blow to fans in Atlanta.

“Everything that is so great about getting that game is what’s so bad about it leaving Atlanta,” said Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who grew up near Atlanta. “It’s going to really hurt those people and they’re going to miss out on an incredible opportunity. What’s great about Atlanta is an unbelievable new ballpark that I like to play in.

“I don’t think it should be lost at how controversial it is to move the game. It’s a big deal. Moving the game is a big deal. Absolutely a big deal. Moving out of Atlanta, I’m glad it’s in Denver, but that’s besides the point. It’s very controversial, the game moving. There’s a lot of mixed feelings about it.”

Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year.

Kemp has vowed to defend Georgia’s measures, and other Republicans have criticized MLB’s move. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backed out of throwing the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener Monday and said the state would not seek to host the All-Star Game or any other special MLB events.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the 2022 All-Star Game.

With its spacious outfield and thin air, Coors Field has become a hitter’s paradise. Recently asked about Coors Field becoming the All-Star Game replacement site, Rockies pitcher Jon Gray chuckled and said: “The Home Run Derby would be legendary.”

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.