2017-07-12 00:56:02
With Serious Implications Set Aside, All-Star Game Loosens Its Collar

00:56, July 12 198 0

MIAMI — For the last 14 seasons, a summer exhibition game determined home-field advantage in the fall, when everything matters in baseball. Yet linking the outcome of the All-Star Game to the location of World Series games did little to change the spirit of camaraderie in July. The difference now — with nothing really on the line — is that baseball sanctions the fun.

So on Tuesday night at Marlins Park, Nelson Cruz took a swing with a cellphone in his back pocket, after posing for a photo with the umpire Joe West. The catcher/photographer, Yadier Molina, hit a home run and got a high-five from the opposing shortstop, Francisco Lindor. George Springer conducted an interview with Fox while playing left field.

There were back stories to all of those moments: Cruz was honoring West, who recently worked his 5,000th game; Molina and Lindor played together on Team Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic; Springer is proud of overcoming a stutter and eagerly agreed to wear a microphone.

The players had good time, but the fans at Marlins Park seemed indifferent — large swaths of the upper decks were empty in the ninth inning, with the score tied. Those who remained saw Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners line a hanging curveball from Wade Davis into the right-field bullpen to lead off the 10th inning and give the American League a 2-1 victory.

Cano, who was named the most valuable player, punctuated the plight of the Chicago Cubs, who are under .500 and sent only Davis to the All-Star Game. The Cubs won the World Series last November, but Davis — who was not on the team then — was the lone player to accompany Manager Joe Maddon and his staff to the All-Star Game.

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who launched homers all over Marlins Park in Monday’s Home Run Derby, went 0 for 3 in his All-Star debut, with a strikeout, groundout and flyout to center. The Mets’ only All-Star, Michael Conforto, singled in the seventh but struck out on a 98-mile-an-hour fastball from Craig Kimbrel to end the ninth inning, stranding the winning run on third for the National League.

The Marlins hosted for the first time, as their owner, Jeffrey Loria, finally showed off his stylish but controversial ballpark — opened in 2012 and built mostly with taxpayers’ money — in the city’s Little Havana district. The All-Star Game will quite likely bring a close, more or less, to Loria’s stormy tenure in Miami, which included no playoff appearances after the 2003 World Series title, and many wrenching trades.

Loria is trying to sell the team, perhaps for as much as $1.3 billion. Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Tuesday that “three viable bidding groups” were deep into negotiations, though Loria seemed agitated when asked about it.

“I don’t even think about it,” he said. “I do not think about it. There’s no deal, so stop talking deal. At some point, maybe. Everybody sells sometime, maybe.”

One player Loria did sign to a long-term contract — the slugger Giancarlo Stanton, whose $325 million deal is the richest in baseball — was the starting designated hitter for the N.L. Stanton struck out against Chris Sale and Dellin Betances on Tuesday, then bounced out to the catcher against Brandon Kintzler. He was eliminated in the first round of the Home Run Derby on Monday, ceding the spotlight to Judge.

“It’s still fun,” Stanton said. “If I look back dwelling on it, what’s the point of being an All-Star if you’re going to be mad about things? Just have fun.”

Betances, the Yankees’ setup man, wobbled in his scoreless third inning. Betances has been an All-Star in each of the past four seasons, a feat matched only by Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. But he has been troubled by wildness this season, with 8.3 walks per nine innings, and the problem persisted on Tuesday.

Betances had fanned two hitters in a row, and had Bryce Harper down in the count, 0-2, with two swinging strikes. Harper did not swing after that, taking four balls in a row.

“I feel like he’s a guy you can go up there and just take,” Harper said on the field, as picked up by a Fox microphone. “He’ll walk you.”

Betances said he felt “out of whack” while walking the next hitter, Buster Posey, but otherwise felt fine. Asked about facing Harper, Betances said: “It’s frustrating. Obviously, Harper’s one of the best hitters. I got him to chase a couple, but then after that he wasn’t chasing the breaking ball down. I ended up losing him, but he put up a great A.B.”

Betances also threw two wild pitches in the inning, making him the first pitcher with two in an All-Star Game since John Smoltz in 1993. But he escaped his scoreless inning by retiring Daniel Murphy on a bases-loaded groundout.

Neither team broke through until the top of the fifth, when the A.L. scored against Alex Wood. With two outs and the bases empty, Jonathan Schoop — the only Baltimore All-Star — lined a double down the third-base line, and scored on a bloop single to right by Minnesota’s Miguel Sano.

Molina tied the score in the sixth with an opposite-field homer to the right-field bullpen off Ervin Santana. But four relievers — Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski, Kimbrel and Andrew Miller — stymied the N.L. the rest of the way. The Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger, who represented the winning run and had homered off Miller in Cleveland last month, flailed at a slider to end the game.

Home-field advantage for the World Series, meanwhile, has not been determined. It will go to the team with the better record.