WASHINGTON D.C.-The All-Star Game featured a record-breaking 10 home runs in the American League’s 8-6 win in 10 innings on Tuesday night.
Houston third baseman Alex Bregman was named MVP for breaking a 5-5 tie with a leadoff home run in the 10th off Dodgers righty Ross Stripling. George Springer followed with a homer, as once again the Astros were beating the Dodgers on a national stage.
It was certainly a game typical of recent trends. There were 25 strikeouts and only 20 combined hits. Half of those hits were home runs. And 13 of the 14 runs scored via the longball, with one sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th.
“Standard operation nowadays, right,” American League manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re going to homer and punch out as an industry. In the beginning of the game, it was are we going to have a game other than a homer, and at the end, it was, are we going to have enough pitching to get out of this mess. There’s a great love affair with both results. I mean, to kind of empty your tank and hit homers tonight at this event is probably the best thing imaginable, just to have that kind of emotion that comes with the home run, especially when the big boys hit it and especially when the Astros hit it.”
The game was actually dominated by pitching for the first six innings. Aaron Judge homered off Max Scherzer in the top of the second, Mike Trout homered off Jacob deGrom in the top of the third and Willson Contreras homered off Blake Snell in the bottom of the fourth. The NL tied the game at two in the seventh on Trevor Story’s home run off Charlie Morton.
Jean Segura’s three-run homer in the top of the eighth gave the AL a 5-2 lead after Joey Votto dropped a pop-up.
Christian Yelich hit a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth and Scooter Gennett tied the game with a two-run homer in the ninth. After Bergman and Springer homered, and the AL added a run in a sacrifice fly, Joey Votto led off the bottom of the 10th with a home run.
Add it all up, and you have 10 All-Star Game homers, blowing past the previous record of six. Hinch was asked if he Monday night’s home run derby or this home run derby was better.
“Tonight’s was,” Hinch said. “We only had one represented last night in our league, and we had quite a few represented tonight. I’ll take tonight.”
Home runs. Strikeouts. Strikeouts. Home runs.
Last season, there were over 6,000 home runs hit, and a new strikeout record was set as it has been every year for the last decade. More than one-third of plate appearances resulted in a home run, strikeout or walk.
Teams and players seem to accept the strikeouts as fine, even though a groundout could advance a runner, and you never know what can happen if you just put the ball in play. Will we ever see a player with numbers like Joe DiMaggio, who finished his career with 361 home runs and 369 strikeouts?
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined to strikeout 371 times in 2017.
Judge struck out eight times in a doubleheader earlier this year, three times in the first game, five times in the nightcap. Tony Gwynn had one three-strikeout game in his entire career.
Mike Trout struck out more times in his first three full seasons than Yogi Berra did in his entire career. And Trout won an MVP award with two runner-up finishes to Miguel Cabrera in those three seasons.
Maybe a guy like Dave Kingman, who was criticized for his high strikeout totals in a career that saw him hit .236 with 442 home runs, was simply ahead of his time.
This Midsummer Classic was a lot of fun. And in fairness, Hinch wasn’t overmanaging or calling hit-and-runs like it was some crucial game. It was an enjoyable exhibition game where players were taking selfies with each other on the field. It’s certainly more memorable than last year’s 2-1 AL win which also went 10 innings.
A night like this one makes you wonder how the sport could ever have issues with such talented and generally likable players.
But there have been more strikeouts than hits in the major leagues this season. According to Tom Verducci, there are three minutes and 45 seconds between balls in play on average.
Maybe there will be some pushback, and hitters will go back to seeing a strikeout as an insult. Maybe some players will learn to hit against the shift instead of pulling ground balls into it for the umpteenth time.
Perhaps facing strong starting pitching and specialized bullpens, it is easier to just hit a home run than try to string three hits together against a Max Scherzer or a Jacob deGrom.
It’s also one thing when all of the best players in the world take the field and ten homers are produced. How about when mediocre and losing teams have nine guys swinging for the fences on every pitch?
There are trends that are concerning to fans. But on this night, the All-Star Game was an instant classic to be enjoyed.