SweetSpot: Brandon Phillps
July, 16, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsMariano Rivera was the man in the spotlight for Tuesday's All-Star Game.NEW YORK -- Here's a fun piece of All-Star trivia: At 24, Matt Harvey is the youngest pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Dwight Gooden, also of the Mets, who was 23 in 1988.
How Harvey will fare in front of the home fans is one of the big story lines heading into the game. Let's hope he does better than the last pitcher to start at his home ballpark; Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros started in 2004 and allowed six runs in the top of the first inning, including home runs to Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.
Harvey, 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA, will face off against Detroit Tigers' right-hander Max Scherzer, 13-1 with a 3.19 ERA. As far as historical All-Star matchups go, this one is hard to call considering Harvey's youth. I'd give it a solid A for entertainment value, however, as both are two of the most exciting pitchers to watch, with upper-90s heat.
Mets fans don't disappoint, booing loudly when all Braves, Phillies and Cardinals players are introduced, although they do give a nice round of applause to former Met Carlos Beltran. Not that they've forgiven that strikeout to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Many players are wearing bright glow-in-the-dark orange shoes, including Adam Jones and David Wright, leading my colleague Matt Meyers to quip that the Mets should make them their regular shoe color. Why not?
Top: The AL lineup is pretty lethal, arguably one of the best All-Star starting nines we've seen in years: Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, Adam Jones, Joe Mauer and J.J. Hardy. Maybe not quite what the AL rolled out in 1934 -- eight future Hall of Famers -- but pretty impressive.
Trout leads with a double just inside the first-base bag. In case you've forgotten, Trout is good.
Harvey hits Cano on the kneecap with a 96 mph fastball. Yankees fans just realized their season could get worse. Harvey recovers to strike out Cabrera on a 92 mph slider, but Dustin Pedroia now enters to run for Cano. Can Derek Jeter play second base? Davis pops out to center. Fun factoid No. 2: He bats fourth in this lineup but fifth on his own team. I believe Buck Showalter may be overthinking that one. Anyway, Bautista fans on another slider. Good job by Harvey to escape what could have been a nightmare top of the first.
Also, the conspiracy theorists point out that Harvey is a Scott Boras client and Cano just dropped Boras as his client.
Bottom: The NL lineup has an obvious flaw in that Bruce Bochy decided to hit his worst hitter leadoff, but, hey, the game only determines home-field advantage for the World Series, something Bochy should know a little something about: Brandon Phillips, Carlos Beltran, Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Yadier Molina, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer, Bryce Harper. That's right, the Rockies have three players in the starting lineup. They're 46-50.
Scherzer has a 1-2-3 inning. Bochy's secret genius idea to hit Phillips leadoff fails to work.
Top: Harvey has a 1-2-3 second inning, including a strikeout of Jones on 98 mph high heat. He leaves to a nice ovation from Mets fans. Job well done, Matt. Now back to your day job -- working for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
Bottom: Well, Chris Sale is on for the AL. Looks like we're going to be treated to a long list of AL relievers later in the game. Brett Cecil! Glen Perkins! Steve Delabar! Greg Holland! What, that doesn't get you excited to watch All-Star baseball? To be fair to Jim Leyland, it's a strategy that could work. Sale mows down the National Leaguers with a nine-pitch inning.
Top: Clayton Kershaw on for the NL. He's pretty good, too. He goes 1-2-3. Kershaw or Koufax? I guess Kershaw still has to do it in the World Series. Maybe he will. This year.
Bottom: Sale back in for a second inning! That crafty old fox Leyland! Sale strikes out Tulo, Cuddyer bounces back to the mound and Harper lines out sharply to Cabrera. Twenty-four pitches for Sale, 17 strikes. Nine up, nine down overall. I think you can make an argument that Sale is the best pitcher in the AL. And, no, the White Sox are not going to trade him.
X-rays on Cano a negative. He meets the media outside the AL clubhouse wrapped in 88 pounds of tape and Alex Rodriguez's contract.
Top: Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks enters. All he has to do is face Cabrera, Davis and Bautista. Unfortunately, we don't get to see Kershaw versus Cabrera, which, apologies to Corbin and his family, is what an All-Star Game is supposed to be about. I'll predict this is the inning the AL breaks this 0-0 tie.
Cabrera drills a 1-2 slider to deep right-center for a leadoff double. Davis singles hard off the top of Votto's glove to move Miggy to third and then Bautista delivers the sac fly. Corbin escapes further damages with a 6-3 double play. He's a nice young pitcher and I wasn't trying to be rough on him, but Bochy probably should have called on a right-hander to start the inning with Cabrera leading off.
Bottom: Here comes the King! Felix Hernandez in for the AL and he's very happy that Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse aren't in the outfield behind him.
After leadoff hero Phillips grounds out, Beltran singles past a diving Hardy for the NL's first baserunner. Perfect game foiled. Andrew McCutchen in to pinch run for Beltran. And steals second! Never underestimate Bochy! Votto bounces out so it's up to hometown hero Wright and his magic orange cleats. Wright tops it to third, with Miggy making a nice play to show off his baseball athleticism. I mean, let's not get carried away, that's a play major league third basemen are supposed to make, but it was a nice play.
Top: Paul Goldschmidt replaces Votto at first base. This is why I thought Goldschmidt should have started at DH. He and Votto have been two of the best hitters in the NL this year. Bochy could have gotten six plate appearances from the two, but now he'll get two from Votto, maybe one from Goldschmidt and maybe one for Allen Craig if he wants to get him in the game as well. Of course, I'm overthinking all this; the managers just want to get everyone in the game, which is understandable.
The AL pushes across another run against Cliff Lee. Adam Jones' orange shoes double to left, Mauer singles on a play Tulowitzki should have/could have made and Hardy's fielder's choice scores the run. At least we won't have the second 1-0 All-Star Game in history (not shockingly, coming in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher).
Bottom: Matt Moore with a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the inning. I think the only ball the NL has hit hard was Harper's lineout to Miggy at third base.
Top: Glad to see Jose Fernandez of the Marlins get an inning. He's absolutely the real deal, a kid who will start one of these games in the future. He strikes out Pedroia and Davis around a Cabrera pop fly. Impressive. Note that Leyland left in Cabrera and Davis for a third plate appearances. Absolutely the right move considering they've been the two best hitters in the majors. Think somebody wants home-field advantage ... you know, just in case a certain team gets there.
Top: David Wright still in the game. Starters aren't allowed to play seven innings! Bochy obviously wants to get him a third at-bat, but it also makes sense from a strategic standpoint. Pedro Alvarez is the backup third baseman and if Bochy brings him in, it would give Leyland a nice matchup of using lefties Glen Perkins or Brett Cecil to face Alvarez and Domonic Brown (now batting fifth), neither of whom hit lefties very well.
Bottom: Manny Machado with a nice play off a tricky hop to throw out Paul Goldschmidt from foul territory. Then the fun starts. David Wright singles off Greg Holland, so Leyland brings in Cecil to face Brown. If Bochy had some guts here, he’d pinch hit Allen Craig, but that kind of move doesn’t happen in an All-Star Game. Brown whiffs.
Leyland brings in Steve Delabar to face Buster Posey. Delabar was homer-prone last year (12) -- a reason the Mariners traded him to the Blue Jays -- but he has allowed just one this season. He fans Posey on a 2-2 slider. Good job, Leyland. If you have 13 pitchers, may as well use them. He still has Justin Masterson and Chris Tillman in reserve if the game goes extra innings, plus relievers Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins and Mariano Rivera.
Top: Tweet of the day from Sam Mellinger: Salvador Perez’s hit was the first by a Royal in the All-Star Game since Bo Jackson in 1989 (although not his home run; that came in the first inning and he singled in the fourth). Jason Kipnis then doubles in Perez and it's 3-0 AL.
Bottom: Rivera in for the bottom of the eighth. Apparently, Leyland is worried that if the other relievers blow the lead this inning, Rivera wouldn’t get in the game. And a goosebump moment as the AL All-Stars remain off the field as Rivera begins his warm-ups; the most universally respected and beloved player in the game. Rivera gets a little weepy as the crowd gives him a big ovation and he doffs his cap.
By the way … Torii Hunter replaces Trout in center. He’s played one game there since 2010. Questionable move. Would Hunter really be crushed if he didn’t get into this game?
Anyway, beautiful pitching from Rivera, that effortless delivery that we’ll remember long after his retirement. He gets hugs from the entire AL team as he heads to the dugout. As J.J. Hardy said yesterday, "It’s great just to share a locker room with him for one day. It’s something I’ll tell my grandchildren about."
Top: Prince Fielder leads off with a triple, but is stranded at third. (Yes, a triple.)
Bottom: Joe Nathan on for the save, the AL still up 3-0. No matter what happens, I’m pretty sure the most discussed aspect of the game will be Leyland’s decision to use Rivera in the eighth instead of the ninth. Me? I’ll just remember him warming up, a singular man in the middle of a baseball field, throwing a baseball.
(Nathan got the save and Rivera was named MVP. The AL wins with a three-hit shutout. Home-field advantage to the Tigers … or the A’s … or the Red Sox … or maybe, miracle of all miracles, the Yankees and Rivera.)