2014 MLB All-Star Game: Winners and Losers from Tuesday Night
The 85th MLB All-Star Game is in the books, with the American League securing home-field advantage in this year's World Series with a 5-3 victory over the National League.
Derek Jeter was the story coming into the game, and he didn't disappoint, turning in a two-hit game and earning a pair of lengthy ovations from the fans in attendance.
Mike Trout walked away with the MVP honors, tallying an RBI triple in the first and an RBI double in the fifth, but there were a number of individual standouts on both sides.
As we reflect on a memorable night at Target Field in Minnesota, here is a look at the biggest winners and losers from this year's Midsummer Classic.
Loser: 2B Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
One of the deepest positions in baseball this year has been second base in the American League.
Robinson Cano was voted in to start, and it's hard to argue against the numbers he's put up in the first half, as he's currently third in the AL with a .334 average to go along with 118 hits and 57 RBI.
Jose Altuve (.335 BA, 130 H, 41 SB) and eventually Ian Kinsler (.303 BA, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 10 SB) joined Cano on the AL roster, with the host Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (.777 OPS, 18 HR, 16 SB) among the notable snubs.
It was a forgettable night for Cano, as he finished the game 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts, including one against Adam Wainwright in the first inning on a breaking ball that bounced well in front of home plate.
Winner: C Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
One of the most underrated players in baseball a year ago when he hit .280 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI, Jonathan Lucroy has finally started to get some of the recognition he deserves after a fantastic first half with the Milwaukee Brewers.
His 4.1 WAR is the best at the position, and he has hit .315/.385/.494 with 32 doubles, nine home runs and 44 RBI on the year.
Despite his impressive numbers, he ended up losing out to All-Star staple Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals in the fan voting, earning his way onto the roster as one of the reserves.
However, Molina's thumb injury opened the door for Lucroy to get the start he deserved, and he made the most of his chance on the national stage.
Playing just the first three innings of the game, he finished 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI doubles off of a couple of tough left-handers in Jon Lester and Chris Sale. That's not too shabby for an All-Star debut.
Loser: SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
The debate over who should start the All-Star Game on the National League side was a spirited one, and many felt Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was the more deserving candidate.
In the end manager Mike Matheny went with his guy Adam Wainwright, and he was deserving in his own right, going 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA in the first half.
Wainwright had to deal with the lengthy standing ovation Jeter received to lead off the game for the AL side, and he did the classy thing, putting down his glove and ball and applauding himself out on the mound.
Once the baseball part started, though, Wainwright never quite looked comfortable out on the mound, bouncing a handful of curveballs and getting hit hard by the AL's juggernaut lineup.
A Derek Jeter double, a Mike Trout RBI triple and a Miguel Cabrera two-run home run left Wainwright walking away from his one inning of work with three runs allowed. In his defense, the pitch to Cabrera was not a bad one, but that's how things go against the best hitter on the planet.
Wainwright did make Robinson Cano and Jose Bautista look silly by striking them out on breaking balls, but it's fair to say things didn't go well for the Cardinals' ace.
Winner: SP Clayton Kershaw
For his part, Clayton Kershaw took the news that he was not starting in the game for the NL in stride, turning the attention to how good Wainwright has been this year.
"Adam deserves it, I have all the respect in the world for Adam," Kershaw told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
With a no-hitter, a 41-inning scoreless streak and an NL-best 1.78 ERA and 0.83 WHIP to his credit, an awfully strong case can be made for Kershaw deserving the honor as well.
As it was, he came on immediately after Wainwright to pitch the second inning. He needed just 11 pitches to retire Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson and Salvador Perez, in order, in his lone inning of work.
Granted he had it a bit easier than Wainwright, who had to face the heart of a stacked AL lineup, but Kershaw clearly came out on top in the debate of who should have been starting for the NL side.
Loser: RP Pat Neshek, St. Louis Cardinals
One of the better stories among the field of All-Star selections this season, Pat Neshek has made the most of his opportunity with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Signed to a minor league contract and given a non-roster invite to spring training, Neshek first pitched his way onto the Opening Day squad and then worked his way into the eighth-inning setup role in a bullpen full of electric young arms.
Making the story even better is the fact that the game is in Minnesota, as it was the Twins who drafted the Park Center Senior High School (Minnesota) alum in the sixth round of the 2002 draft. The fans recognized his homecoming, giving him one of the bigger ovations when the rosters were announced.
Unfortunately, this story didn't have a happy ending as far as his All-Star trip to Minnesota was concerned, as he was the game's losing pitcher.
Neshek came on to pitch the bottom of the fifth, with the score tied at 3-3, getting a quick first out.
He allowed three straight hits from there, though, including an RBI double to Mike Trout that chased him from the game with runners on second and third.
Winner: The Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera Debate
The past two seasons, one of the most polarizing topics in all of sports has been Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP honors.
Old-school counting stats favor Cabrera, who won a Triple Crown in 2012 and is sitting on three straight AL batting titles.
Meanwhile, new-school sabermetrics, and WAR in particular, call Trout the best all-around player in the game, though he has finished second to Cabrera in said MVP voting.
One thing is for sure, these two are both awfully fun to watch, and it's a treat for baseball fans every time one of them is one the field. This year's All-Star Game was no different.
Trout finished the night 2-for-3 with an RBI triple to get the AL on the scoreboard in the first and an RBI double to break a 3-3 tie in the fifth.
Not to be outdone, Cabrera hit his first career All-Star Game home run to extend the AL lead to 3-0 in the first inning, driving in Trout in the process. He finished the night 1-for-3 but had the game's lone home run.
Loser: National League Reserves
The NL starting lineup tallied seven hits and three runs during its time in the game, but the offense came to a screeching halt for the Senior Circuit once it started putting in the reserves.
All told, the NL backups combined to go 1-for-12 at the plate.
A single from Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and a walk by Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier were the only baserunners they could muster, striking out six times in the process.
That made for a quick second half of the game, as the 5-3 lead held up, and the American League side walked away with the victory.
Winner: American League Relievers
This one sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previous slide about the struggles of the NL reserves, but it's worth going a bit more in depth on how the AL relievers shined.
Fellow B/R MLB writer Joe Giglio talked about the AL's bullpen dominance in his postgame piece:
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig spoke with Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports during the game about how baseball has evolved under his watch. On a day-to-day and game-by-game basis, no difference is as stark as the amount of dominant relief pitchers in every bullpen. In this All-Star Game, the American League used that to its advantage.
The AL side struck for two runs in the bottom of the fifth, taking a 5-3 lead in the process, and an impressive arsenal of relievers locked things down from there.
A total of five different closers took the mound over the final 3.1 innings of the game to shut down the National League offense and secure the victory.
- Koji Uehara: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
- Greg Holland: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
- Sean Doolittle: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
- Fernando Rodney: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
- Glen Perkins: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, SV
Most viewed the NL bullpen as the more dominant assortment of arms, led by flamethrowers Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, but it was the AL bullpen arms that stole the show on Tuesday.
The hometown battery of Glen Perkins and Kurt Suzuki coming on to slam the door in the ninth for the save was a great way to cap things off for the Minnesota fans.
Loser: RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Entering this year's All-Star weekend, one of the most talked about players on either side was Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig.
Fans and analysts alike campaigned for him to be included on the NL squad last year, but he wound up left off the roster, due in large part to the fact that he was just 38 games into his big league career.
This year would be a different story, as Puig was chosen to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday, before taking his place among the starters in the NL outfield on Tuesday after being voted in by the fans.
Could he wind up stealing the show in Minnesota? Not so much.
An anxious Puig went homerless to be eliminated in the first round of the Home Run Derby.
He then followed that up with an 0-for-3 showing in the main event on Tuesday, striking out in each of his three at-bats.
Granted he fanned against three of the best in the business in Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer, but it was a disappointing All-Star debut nonetheless.
Looking ahead to the second half, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the weekend could have on Puig.
He was already struggling heading into the break, hitting .264/.333/.399 with just one home run since the start of June, after a red-hot start to the year. The race for the NL West figures to be a tight one between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, so they will need their young star firing on all cylinders.
Winner: SS Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
It was a great game, with a handful of highlights on both sides, but at the end of the day this game was all about Derek Jeter. And he certainly delivered in his 14th and final All-Star appearance.
After a lengthy standing ovation prior to leading things off for the AL squad in the bottom of the first, Jeter used his classic inside-out swing to lace a double to right field off of NL starter Adam Wainwright.
Oh, and it was his first time ever facing Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in the game today. No big deal.
He came up again in the bottom of the third, facing Cincinnati Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon, and he again came through by dumping a jam-shot single to right field.
His goodbye moment came at the top of the next inning, when he took the field but was lifted for Alexei Ramirez before the start of the fourth.
Another nice ovation and a curtain call capped things off for Jeter, and all things considered, it was a terrific Midsummer Classic finale for the Yankee captain.
He wraps up his All-Star career 13-for-27 for a hefty .481 batting average.