CLEVELAND (AP) – Justin Verlander, Shane Bieber and the American League pitchers plugged power back into the mound.
A day after an awesome Home Run Derby got baseball buzzing even more about monster shots, only a couple balls flew out of Progressive Field at the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
Instead, Verlander blazed 97 mph heat from the start, Bieber struck out the side and the AL staff combined to fan 16, topping a loaded NL lineup 4-3 for its seventh straight win.
With fans hoping to see a replay of Monday’s jaw-dropping aerial show when 312 homers cleared the walls, the diamond became a pitchers’ paradise – at least until the late innings.
Derby champ Pete Alonso of the Mets grounded a two-out, two-run single past Gleyber Torres in the eighth to close the NL’s gap. After a double steal put runners at second and third against Cleveland reliever Brad Hand, White Sox catcher James McCann made a tumbling catch on Mike Moustakas’ twisting foul pop to end the inning.
Aroldis Chapman threw a perfect ninth to give the AL its 19th win 22 games, with a tie stuck in there. Chapman got a little encouragement with two outs – Yankees teammate CC Sabathia, honored this week for his contributions on and off the field, strolled to the mound to talk to the flamethrower.
Chapman then struck out Yasmani Grandal for a save, giving the AL an overall 45-43-2 lead in the Midsummer Classic.
Major League Baseball is on a record-shattering pace for homers this season, but no one came close to clearing the walls until Charlie Blackmon connected in the NL sixth. Texas’ Joey Gallo countered with a solo drive in the seventh.
Cleveland favorite Michael Brantley had an early RBI double off losing pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Jorge Polanco drove in a run with an infield single and another scored on a double-play grounder.
Winning pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, Lucas Giolito and Shane Greene did their parts to protect the lead with scoreless innings, shutting down Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and the rest of the NL boppers.
Bieber earned the MVP award in front of his home fans, striking out Willson Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the fifth.
Yelich lined out and Verlander, featuring 97 mph heat, quickly fanned Javier Báez and Freddie Freeman to finish his work.
Overall, there were 36 first-timers, a number boosted by the absence of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve and several past perennials. And consider this: Of the 16 AL pitchers on the 2017 All-Star roster, zero made the roster this year.