The American League continued their Midsummer Classic dominance over the National League Tuesday night, winning their ninth consecutive All-Star Game by a final score of 3-2. Between Shohei Ohtani, Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton, Byron Buxton, and Paul Goldschmidt, MLB’s annual celebration of star power was once again a sight to behold.
The night got off to a rocking start, when Angels two-way star Ohtani came to the plate to face Dodgers star pitcher Kershaw, but was stopped for a quick pre-at bat interview with Fox’s Tom Verducci. In classic Ohtani fashion, he kept things simple. “First pitch, first swing. That’s it.”
He kept true to his word, swinging at the first pitch thrown by Kershaw, a 90 mile-per-hour fastball that touched the outside corner. And what made this moment truly remarkable was — despite announcing his intentions to Kershaw and a sold out Dodger Stadium crowd — Ohtani making contact and getting on base with a single.
Ohtani spoke after the game about Kershaw’s pitch and the result of the swing, of course wishing there had been a more electrifying result than a single, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“I was definitely swinging, 100 percent, and Kershaw has good command, so he wasn’t going to leave it over the middle,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I wish I would’ve hit it more square, or a swing and a miss might’ve been better. It was something in the middle, so I wasn’t very happy about that.”
The back-and-forth between Ohtani and Kershaw did not end there. While facing Aaron Judge, the No. 2 man in the AL order, Kershaw casually lobbed a ball to first base to stop Ohtani from trying to steal. And much to his surprise, Ohtani failed to get back in time, completing a successful pick-off maneuver.
Kershaw admitted he had no intention of actually getting Ohtani out, but was happy nonetheless.
“I just kind of lobbed it over there,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know what pitch to throw yet, so just kind of giving myself a second and I got him. It was good.”
Ohtani — as per usual — set some records with his performance on Tuesday night, as well. With his first pitch swing and hit, he became the first player since Mike Trout in 2015 to lead off the All-Star Game with a hit. He also became the first player since Trout in 2013 to record a hit on the first pitch of the All-Star Game.
Finally, he became the fifth starting DH to reach base multiple times in the Midsummer Classic, joining Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, and Bobby Bonilla.
Following the fireworks in the opening minutes, the game resumed as normal. The National League struck first with two first-inning runs off of AL Cy Young favorite Shane McClanahan. A Ronald Acuna Jr. ground-rule double and Mookie Betts RBI single brought home the first run.
Then, Paul Goldschmidt uncorked a 415-foot home to left-center field to extend the NL lead to 2-0. But that lead would not last very long.
The AL did the entirety of their damage in the top of the fourth against Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin, who has yet to lose a regular season game in 17 starts this season. After allowing a single to Jose Ramirez, Stanton absolutely crushed a heart-of-the-zone breaking ball 457 feet to knot the game at two.
The very next at-bat, Byron Buxton gave a high fastball a ride out of the ballpark, giving the AL a lead they would hold on to for the rest of the evening.
Gonsolin would take his first loss — albeit unofficially — of the season, with Houston Astros ace Framber Valdez grabbing the win. Emmanuel Clase of the Cleveland Guardians recorded the save with a perfect ninth inning, striking out the side in order.
Although it may be Ohtani and Kershaw’s opening moments that received the most attention, it was another excellent celebration of a league with as much talent as there’s ever been.