SEATTLE – As a perfect Seattle summer afternoon moved into a pleasant evening, there was a feeling as the innings sped by thanks to the pitch clock, some early shadows causing problems for hitters and the overall pitching dominance, the first All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park in more than two decades was happening just a little too fast for everyone involved.
And, no, it wasn’t a good thing, no matter what commissioner Rob Manfred might believe about pace of play and action on the field.
A sellout crowd of 47,159 who had shelled out exorbitant dollars for a nine-inning game didn’t want baseball’s best players off the field and headed home in 2 hours and 30 minutes. They wanted to bask in a perfect evening and outstanding environment just a little longer. It likely won’t come around again for another 20 years.
But the later innings slowed to a more enjoyable pace where fans could savor the opportunity, waiting for that moment to feel blessed to be there.
It came in the bottom of the ninth inning with the American League trailing by a run. With two outs, Kyle Tucker worked a walk off Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel to bring Julio Rodriguez to the plate.
Was this the moment for the Mariners’ young superstar?
Could he produce something like the record-setting 41 homers he blasted in the first-round of the home run derby?
Rodriguez fouled off two hittable fastballs, but never gave in to Kimbrel’s waste pitches, taking a walk to bring Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez to the plate.
Kimbrel struck out Ramirez on a 2-2 fastball to end the game and give the NL a 3-2 come-from-behind victory.
Colorado’s Elías Díaz took home most valuable player honors by providing the game-winning homer.
In the eighth inning, with the National League trailing 2-1, Orioles closer Felix Bautista, who looks almost big enough to be a professional wrestler and has been largely unhittable this season, gave up the lead.
Perhaps, it was delicious karma for the Baltimore Orioles social media team incorrectly dubbing Bautista “King Felix” in tweets and Instagram posts. (In Seattle, “King Felix” can never be anyone other than Felix Hernandez.) Bautista walked Nick Castellanos, uncorked a wild pitch and then served up the go-ahead two-run homer to Díaz.
The first five innings were more about what might have been than what occurred. Brilliant leaping grabs in the first inning by Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena took away extra base hits. A beautiful throw to second from catcher Jonah Heim on Luis Arraez’s stolen base attempt, ended the fourth inning with Corbin Carroll at the plate and the chance for the local kid to be the hero in the park he grew up dreaming of playing in one day.
The American League jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Yandy Diaz crushed a slider from Mitch Keller over the wall in left field for a solo homer.
It was Keller’s third homer allowed at T-Mobile Park in two starts this season. Back on May 26 on an unseasonably warm Thursday night, he gave up homers to Julio Rodriguez and J.P. Crawford. But fellow All-Star George Kirby, who also started that night, gave up a stunning four homers while Seattle’s bullpen surrendered three more.
Perhaps it was fitting symmetry that the National League would tie the game off Kirby in the fourth inning.
The Mariners’ young right-hander started the fourth inning. After firing a pair of fastballs at 99 mph for two quick swinging strikes and not getting J.D. Martinez to chase on another 99-mph fastball away, Kirby hung a slider that Martinez smacked into left field for a double.
After retiring Nolan Arenado with a groundball, Kirby gave up a run-scoring single to Luis Arraez that only he could hit.
Arraez, who was hitting. 383 going into the All-Star break, stayed on top of a 98-mph fastball above the strike zone, ripping a line drive into right field to score Martinez.
It was a bit of payback for Arraez, who went hitless in a three-game series in mid-June at T-Mobile Park. Arraez arrived in Seattle batting .402 on June 9. He proceeded to go 0-for-12 in 14 plate appearances, leaving town with a .378 average. He went hitless in three plate appearances against Kirby and even struck out. Two nights later in his first game after the series, Arraez had five hits vs. the Nationals.
The AL took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning on Bo Bichette’s sac fly.