LOS ANGELES — At long last, the Midsummer Classic returned to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. But any hope that the iconic venue’s first hosting duties since 1980 would return us to an era in which the Senior Circuit once owned this event was extinguished by the continued excellence of the American League.
Under the beautiful blue Southern California sky, the AL erased an early deficit and held the NL hitless from the second through seventh innings of a 3-2 victory in front of a crowd of 52,518 and a national audience on FOX. Regardless, Dodger Stadium starred and shone in an entertaining showcase of the sport, with past and present legends saluted, big blasts sailing into the bleacher seats and mic’d up players aplenty. Hometown hero Giancarlo Stanton played the leading man, earning the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP presented by Chevrolet after setting up the victory with his huge two-run homer in the fourth. Stanton’s jersey now heads to Cooperstown as the Hall of Fame’s memento from this Midsummer Classic.
Hollywood proximity and Dodger history were perfectly paired when two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington presented a stirring tribute to Jackie Robinson in this 75th anniversary of the year of his Dodger debut. Then Mookie Betts, surrounded on the field by his fellow All-Stars from the NL and AL, led the crowd in a heartfelt “Happy Birthday!” to Jackie’s widow, Rachel, who turned 100 on Tuesday.
Once the pregame festivities had wrapped, it was on the home team to try to end its unsightly showing on this summer stage. The NL has not won this exhibition since 2012 and has just six wins since 1988, but it offered some early hope. In the bottom of the first against left-hander Shane McClanahan, Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled down the left-field line, and Betts singled to bring him home. Though Betts was erased on a beautiful double play featuring a beautiful behind-the-back toss from AL second baseman Andrés Giménez, Paul Goldschmidt’s 415-foot line drive solo shot to left-center gave the Senior Circuit a quick 2-0 edge.
Ah, but the AL had plenty of innings to answer. And answer it did in the fourth, against Tony Gonsolin. A José Ramírez single set up a typically titanic two-run blast off the big bat of Stanton. At 457 feet with a 111.7-mph exit velocity, it was the second-longest homer and hardest-struck hit in an All-Star Game since Statcast began tracking in 2015. It also tied it up at 2.
This was a rare night in which the majority of the viewing public would have been content to see the scoring stop there, so that a new All-Star rule calling for a bonus Home Run Derby in lieu of extra innings would be activated immediately. Alas, Byron Buxton immediately followed Stanton’s swat with a solo shot to left, and, just like that, the AL was in a familiar place — ahead.
The 3-2 edge brought about by Buxton proved to have staying power, and so did the AL’s dominance on the All-Star stage.