Vladimir Guerrero Jr. put his signature on his first All-Star Game with one mighty swing of the bat.
Toronto’s 22-year-old first baseman crushed a 468-foot solo home run off Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes in the third inning Tuesday night, waking up the Coors Field crowd and igniting the American League to a 5-2 win over the National League. He was named the game’s most valuable player.
It was the AL’s eighth consecutive win over the NL and its 20th win in the past 24 games.
The National League had a golden opportunity to rally in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs. But the Los Angeles Angels’ Jared Walsh robbed the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant of a base hit by making a sliding catch in left field of a line drive. Bryant swung at a 3-0 pitch.
Guerrero didn’t participate in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, but maybe he should have. Because his home run to left-center struck like a lightning bolt.
Youthful talent was the theme going into this year’s Midsummer Classic — and Guerrero delivered.
At age 22 years and 119 days, he became the second-youngest player in All-Star Game history to hit a home run. Johnny Bench, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer catcher, was 21 years and 228 days old when he homered in the 1969 All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.
Guerrero also drove in a run with an RBI groundout in the fifth inning.
Youth was served in other ways Tuesday night. In the seventh inning, Milwaukee right-hander Freddie Peralta, 25, struck out the side in his all-star debut.
In the Home Run Derby, there were special baseballs in play for the event, and several flew farther than 500 feet. But those balls were superball-hard and were not stored in the Coors Field humidor.
The baseballs used for Tuesday’s game were normal — and they were stored in the humidor — but that didn’t stop the American Leaguers from launching two home runs. After Guerrero’s solo homer, Tampa Bay’s Mike Zunio launched a solo shot off Mets right-hander Taijuan Walker in the sixth.
The National League’s lone homer came off the bat of Philadelphia catcher J.T. Realmuto in the fifth. He crushed a 1-1 sinker by Boston’s Gregory Soto into center field, cutting the AL’s lead to 4-1. Realmuto, whose homer traveled 430 feet, was the first Phillies player to homer in an All-Star Game since Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in 1981.
Right-hander German Marquez, Colorado’s lone representative in the game, performed well in front of the home crowd. Pitching in the All-Star Game for the first time, he entered the game in the fourth inning and quickly set the Al stars down in order, inducing Rafael Devers to ground out to shortstop and Marcus Semien to ground out to Nolan Arenado at third.
Marquez missed with two fastballs against Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez but then threw three nasty sliders in a row to strike him out swinging. Both players are from Venezuela.
“I have a ton of respect for Salvador Perez,” Marquez said. “After (I struck him out), he acknowledged me, just to kind of show some respect. I knew him from coming up in the minor leagues, and to see him reach this point, I’m proud of him.”
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado, the former Rockies star who started at third base for the NL, went 0-for-2.
Los Angeles Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani became the first player in All-Star Game history to be selected as both a pitcher and a position player. Although the moment was historic, he didn’t play a huge factor in the game, although he was the winning pitcher.
He led off the game against NL starter Max Scherzer and grounded out to second in his only at-bat. He started the game and pitched a clean first inning.
Ohtani was the main attraction for the All-Star Game, as well as the hype leading up to it.
“I’m really happy that more people are watching baseball,” Ohtani said. “It’s very good for the sport.”
Although he didn’t win the Home Run Derby or make a big splash in the game, Ohtani was thrilled with his first taste of the Midsummer Classic.
“So far, this weekend has been the best (baseball) experience and the most memorable,” he said. “I’ve never played in the playoffs or World Series, but once I do that it’ll probably surpass this.”
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