“‘Monumental” Night for D.C. Baseball”
I woke to several headlines and numerous articles touting last night’s 10-inning All Star Game as a “Classic,” a “Full-powered Classic”.
That was not the 3:45 minute game (4:45 with all the introductions) that three of us watched at Nats’ Park and that the American League won 8-6 in the 10th inning.
As we left the stadium at the end of the game, I asked my friend Todd what he would lead with if he was writing the next morning’s story about the game. He said he’d probably write that if you want the All Star Game to be truly competitive, it has to mean something (it no longer determines home field advantage for the World Series).
My wife Ellen, who now attends 5-10 games a year, said “there didn’t seem to be much energy out there, neither the players nor the fans were particularly into the game after the first few innings.”
It did start with energy, both in the stands (sellout crowd of 43,843) and on the field. The Nats’ ace Max Scherzer opened the game by striking out the American League’s leading hitter, Boston’s Mookie Betts. The crowd roared. He struck out the second batter also, the American League’s 2017 MVP, Houston’s Jose Altuve, on three pitches. Scherzer and Los Angeles’ Mike Trout, perhaps MLB’s premier player, battled. The fans wanted a third strike out, but Trout took the count to 3-2, fouled off a few pitches, and earned a walk. The fans sat down, disappointed and quieted further when Boston and MLB’s home run leader, Boston’s J.D. Martinez singled. But Schezer got Jose Ramirez to pop out and got out of the inning. The crowd settled in.
In the bottom half of the first, Boston’s ace Chris Sale gave up a first pitch single to Javier Baez, but then got the next three batters out, two on fly balls and one on a strike out. Sale threw at least one pitch over 100 mph and several at 99 and 98, something he has not done over the last eight years.
Scherzer came back out and immediately the Yankee’s Aaron Judge hit a home run. American League up 1-0. The stadium seemed stunned. So did Scherzer who then got all of the next three batters out quickly, including two by strike outs.
After Matt Kemp started the National League off with a double in the bottom of the second against New York’s best pitcher, Luis Severino, Bryce Harper, winner (and hero to the Nats’ fans) of the Home Run Derby the previous night, had a chance to tie the game or even put the National League ahead. He struck out (he did that again in his second at bat too), and the next two batters were quickly retired. All quiet on South Capitol Street.
Each team scored a run on bases empty home runs in the third, Mike Trout for the American League and then Wilson Contreras for the National League.
And for almost the next two hours, the score remained at 2-1, the American League leading. The fans began to leave when most of the starters and best players on both teams were replaced by less well known names, and neither team seemed to have much spirit. There was a spark of life when the National League tied the game on a home run by Trevor Story in the bottom of the 7th, but then rained threatened.
The fans should probably have stayed, as it turned out, because 11 of the 14 runs were scored (all on home runs but one) after the seventh.
But for some reason both managers seemed to stop managing, or at least seemed to stop trying to win. The best of the relievers remained in the bullpens, even when a barrage of hits and home runs were given up, and the game was still on the line. Then Seattle’s Jean Segura hit a three run homer in the 8th off the NL’s Josh Hader, and there were to be seven more runs scored before the American League was able to win on homers in the 10th. By that time, the stadium was more than half empty and even some of the starting players had left their dugouts.
Maybe Todd is correct. Maybe there needs to be some incentive beyond just being an exhibition game for the best known players. Maybe the Washington fans are more sedate than in other cities. (We were in Minneapolis for the ALG a few years ago, and Ellen remarked that that game was much more lively).
But a “thriller” or “monumental” this game was not. Or at least it did not seem to be so to us nor to many of the 43,843 fans who were no where to be seen well before the game ended.
I am curious what others who watched the game on TV saw and thought.