Four pitches into the game, Zack Greinke left one up just a little bit. At Great American Ball Park, that’s too much. The National League’s pitching staff was highly impressive at times, fanning 15 batters overall. It was a bit off at other times, giving the American League the small opening it needed to pull away for a 6-3 win in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. Mike Trout opened the game with a solo homer, an opposite-field shot that landed in the first row in right field and reminded the NL of what happens when a pitch is left up in the hitter-friendly ballpark. Trout became the first player to win back-to-back All-Star MVP awards. ”It’s not easy,” Greinke said. ”You’ve got like a 2-inch window up in the (strike) zone. If you throw it higher than that, he takes it. If you throw it lower, he does what he did. I was trying to go a couple inches higher and I just missed my spot a little bit.” He wasn’t the only one.
Prince Fielder drove in a pair of runs with a single and a sacrifice fly, and Brian Dozier hit the last of the game’s three solo homers – yes, Great American played to its reputation. The AL had seven hits as it pulled away to its third straight win. Greinke was manager Bruce Bochy’s choice to start based upon his 1.39 ERA, best in the majors. He hadn’t given up a run in his last five starts, going a career-high 35 2/3 innings without allowing a run. The streak is intact because the All-Star Game doesn’t count toward season statistics. He wished he could have been perfect on Tuesday, too, in a game that decides home-field advantage for the World Series. ”I’d rather it have continued because this game is probably more important than the normal regular-season games, for the most part,” he said.
Clayton Kershaw also struggled, giving up a pair of runs and three hits in the fifth inning highlighted by Fielder’s tiebreaking single. ”It was fun, except for giving up the runs,” Kershaw said. ”I felt fine. I wasn’t really throwing the ball where I wanted to.” It wasn’t all bad, though. Jacob deGrom fanned the side in the top of the sixth inning on only 10 pitches. He became the first pitcher in All-Star history to fan the side with so few pitches. ”I was pretty nervous in the bullpen but when I got on the mound, it went away,” he said. ”I was just letting it go. I knew I only had one inning.” Reds closer Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth and had the AL hitters shaking their heads on the bench as he hit triple-digits on all but a couple of pitches, topping out at 103 mph as he struck out the side.
Reds fans may not see Chapman pitching the ninth inning in Cincinnati many more times. Chapman and starter Johnny Cueto could get traded later this month as the Reds try to dig out of a second straight disappointing season. ”It is something that is part of the game but out of my control,” Chapman said, with trainer Tomas Vera interpreting. ”I won’t worry about it. It is up to the front office what happens.” The oldest player in the game didn’t even get into it. Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett, who made the game for the first time at age 38 and plans to retire after the season, was one of six NL players who didn’t play.