DENVER — Shohei Ohtani yielded the floor to a fellow dynamo Tuesday night at Coors Field, and Major League Baseball is none the worse for it.
For if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. can’t match his lethal bat with a remarkable mound presence a la Ohtani, he sure can similarly rev up a crowd and a sport.
The prodigal Blue Jays first baseman did something his Hall of Fame dad never pulled off, becoming the youngest (at 22) to win MLB All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player honors as he powered the American League over the National League, 5-2. The Junior Circuit picked up where it left off before the coronavirus pandemic canceled last year’s event, winning its eighth straight All-Star Game.
Guerrero, making his Midsummer Classic debut in his third season, crushed a 468-foot, solo homer to left field off the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes in the third inning, doubling the AL’s advantage to 2-0. He added another RBI in the fifth when his grounder to second brought home his Toronto teammate Teoscar Hernandez from third base.
Ohtani, the AL’s leadoff pitcher and leadoff hitter, who deservedly drew most of the pregame hype, threw a 1-2-3 first inning and went 0-for-2, grounding out twice, as the starting designated hitter. He said he slept until 10:30 Tuesday morning following his exhausting effort in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, when he dropped a first-round thriller to the Nationals’ Juan Soto.
“Definitely it was a lot more tiring than the regular season,” Ohtani said through an interpreter after leaving the game. “But if everyone had fun, then I’m good with that.”
Actually, the game itself came off as relatively tame compared to its recent predecessors, devoid of social-media stunts and extreme fraternizing. The AL scored first when the Yankees’ Aaron Judge drew a four-pitch walk off Burnes to start the second inning, advanced to third base on a double by the Red Sox’s Rafael Devers and scored on a swinging-bunt single by the Blue Jays’ Marcus Semien. NL third baseman Nolan Arenado bare-handed the ball, but threw late to first base.
The AL gave itself a 4-0 cushion in the fifth when the Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts followed Guerrero’s RBI groundout by grounding a single through the shift to plate the Orioles’ Cedric Mullins. Rays catcher Mike Zunino also slammed a sixth-inning solo homer off the Mets’ Taijuan Walker as the AL East accounted for all of its league’s runs.
The NL got on the board when Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto knocked a solo homer in the fifth, and the rest of the game’s suspense centered around the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, a strong candidate to get traded by the July 30 trade deadline. In the sixth inning, as the potential go-ahead run with two men on and two outs after the NL had picked up an additional run, Bryant struck out against the Athletics’ Chris Bassitt. And then again in the eighth, as the potential go-ahead run with the bases loaded and two outs, Bryant swung at a 3-and-0 offering by the Red Sox’s Matt Barnes and scorched it to left field, where the Angels’ Jared Walsh made a sliding catch to extinguish the threat.
Asked to describe his experience, the 27-year-old Ohtani said: “It was definitely more fun than nervous, and I definitely want to be back at the All-Star Game.”
The sport very much hopes he’ll be back often, the more young co-stars joining him, the better.
The AL now leads the series, 46-43.