Stunner of a home run gives NL 1st All-Star Game win since 2012 (2024)

July 12th, 2023

Stunner of a home run gives NL 1st All-Star Game win since 2012 (1)

Anthony Castrovince

@castrovince

SEATTLE -- In a 2023 season rife with surprises came an All-Star Game result way out of left field ... thanks to a blast way out to left field.

An unlikely All-Star became an unlikely All-Star hero in an unusual All-Star result. When Rockies catcher Elias Díaz, a first-time All-Star at age 32, took the O's Félix Bautista deep with a runner on second in the top of the eighth on Tuesday night, he gave the National League the go-ahead run in a 3-2 win at T-Mobile Park -- the Senior Circuit’s first victory on the Midsummer Classic stage since way back in 2012.

Box score

“It means a lot to me, to my family,” said Díaz, whose clutch clout made him the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet. “So proud of what I’ve been doing, what I’ve been able to accomplish. Being in the All-Star Game, for me, is amazing.”

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The year has been defined thus far by some unexpected surges up topsy-turvy standings, and so the NL’s sudden All-Star success propelled by a career backup catcher fits right in.

But as usual in this non-binding exhibition, the result was secondary to the showcase.

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For this was a night to gawk at great catches and clutch hits, to enjoy in-game interviews with mic’d up stars and to appreciate the Mariners’ underappreciated facility and some sensational weather in a week in which the Emerald City defied its rainy reputation.

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Prior to the game, Mariners legends Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martínez threw out ceremonial first pitches to Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner, and the great Cal Ripken Jr., who played his final All-Star Game in this building the last time it hosted the Midsummer Classic in 2001, made an in-game scoreboard appearance.

“Seattle's a beautiful city,” said NL manager Rob Thomson, “and MLB and the city of Seattle just did a fantastic job for this.”

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A crowd of 47,159 of course included many Mariners faithful, who took the opportunity to initiate the free-agent recruiting process with “Come to Seattle!” chants when Shohei Ohtani came to the plate (“Never experienced anything like that,” said Ohtani through his interpreter, “but I definitely heard it.”). And they were at their loudest when hometown hero Julio Rodríguez came to the plate against Craig Kimbrel with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. J-Rod drew a walk, but Kimbrel was able to strike out the Guardians’ José Ramírez to escape the jam.

“It was just unbelievable to have all the stars here and the energy that the fans brought, like, it was unbelievable what they did,” Rodríguez said. “Seattle definitely showed out.”

The NL’s early efforts to end their rut were impeded by leather.

In succession to open the top of the first, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman lofted long fly balls off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, only to watch Adolis García and Randy Arozarena, respectively, corral them with leaping catches in front of the wall. Arozarena of course punctuated his with the famous “Randy pose.”

“The outfielders were on their game, for sure,” Cole said. “I gave them some tough chances, and they converted it. It’s really fun when the ball is in the air and you know you have All-Star defenders.”

It was, instead, the AL that opened the scoring, with first baseman Yandy Díaz, whose blossoming power has made him a pivotal piece of the Rays’ rise to the top of the AL East, taking Mitch Keller deep on a second-inning solo shot.

The ball traveled far, and so did Yandy. He’s awaiting the birth of his first child, and that’s led to some frantic flying.

“I got here at like 3 a.m.,” Díaz said. “I got to the airport at 2 p.m., my flight was delayed and I didn’t take off until about 7 p.m., and I got here at like 2-3 a.m. I woke up at 7 a.m. I got a good breakfast, and I made my way to the stadium. 7 a.m. [Wednesday] is the C-section.”

(And in case you were wondering, yes, this was the first time two players with the same last name went deep in the same All-Star Game. Viva the Díaz duo.)

The NL evened it up when that human hit machine Luis Arraez, whose .400 chase is one of the season’s best storylines, did what he does best by smacking a single to right to score J.D. Martinez and make it 1-1. But Bo Bichette’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly gave the AL a 2-1 lead and a chance at pushing its winning streak to 10.

It looked as though that would be the case. But Giants closer Camilo Doval kept the AL at bay by retiring Pacific Northwest product Adley Rutschman with a runner in scoring position to end the seventh. Then, with Nick Castellanos aboard via a walk, Díaz scooped Bautista’s 87 mph splitter and lofted it out to left. With that, the NL had a 3-2 lead, and Josh Hader and Kimbrel made it stand.

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Díaz was thrilled merely to be headed to the All-Star Game. Now the jersey he wore for his dramatic dinger is headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I think that’s what this game and week was all about,” Braves first baseman Matt Olson observed. “Guys deserve a chance to showcase what they can do. They’ve earned the right to be here. It might not necessarily be the guys you see on MLB Twitter and Instagram all the time, the quote-unquote faces of baseball, but everyone plays the game the same way and it’s cool for someone [like Díaz] to do that.”

Thanks to their unlikely star among stars, the NL is finally off the schneid. Another surprise in a season full of them.

Stunner of a home run gives NL 1st All-Star Game win since 2012 (2024)
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