By Andrew Kahn
Baseball’s first “half” concludes this weekend. The All-Star Game takes place in Cincinnati on Tuesday. What will the game deliver? Who knows, but given that Jon Lester got a hit this week—after 66 hitless at bats to start his career—anything is possible.
All Star robbery
I’m not talking about roster snubs here (more on that below). On Tuesday, the National League’s All-Star center fielder, Andrew McCutchen, hit a ball over the fence in left field at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The San Diego Padres’ All-Star representative, Justin Upton, leaped over the fence to rob the home run:
The catch had all the ingredients of a great robbery: a long run, a perfectly timed jump, and glove extension over and past the fence. The Pirates fans who should have had a shot at a souvenir were stunned. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first time Upton has robbed a homer in his career and the first time Cutch had been robbed. Perhaps McCutchen deserved better, considering he rescued a groundskeeper earlier in the game (see below).
The tarp monster
The footage of the Pittsburgh grounds crew struggling with the tarp during a rain delay is a bit scary, particularly at the 1:06 mark. But given the outcome—nobody was hurt—it’s hard not to laugh.
At least one person in the grounds crew found humor in the situation, as he carved an outline of where his colleague went down:
Apparently the tarps are lighter than they used to be, which makes them easier to move—by both man and nature. So when the winds picked up in Pittsburgh, the tarp couldn’t be controlled. McCutchen and teammates Gregory Polanco and Sean Rodriguez rushed to free the man trapped underneath. While McCutchen was not rewarded for his good deed, Polanco was: he had the go-ahead hit in the eighth inning of a 3-2 Pirates win.
When the Kansas City Royals led in All-Star Game voting at all but one starting position, there was a lot of concern among fans and writers. As it turned out, the Royals will only have three starters: catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and outfielder Lorenzo Cain, all worthy inclusions. Outfielder Alex Gordon was also voted in but got hurt earlier this week and will miss the game. Two Kansas City pitchers were also chosen for the team while third baseman Mike Moustakas is among the four candidates for the final roster spot. You can vote for the final player on each side until 4 p.m. ET today. With the rosters being so large, it’s hard to say anyone got snubbed. If a deserving player or three wasn’t left off, the All-Star designation wouldn’t be all that special.
The Home Run Derby field was also announced this week. As mentioned here last week, the Derby will have a new look this year. Most notably, it’s a head-to-head event. Here is the bracket:
There’s a lot of young star power in the field. Pujols and Fielder are the only players older than 30; those two and a pair of 29-year-olds, Todd Frazier and Josh Donaldson, are the only players with Derby experience. The other half of the field includes a trio of 23-year-olds and a 25-year-old (Anthony Rizzo). Two-time defending champ Yoenis Cespedes will not be competing. He had said he wanted to participate if he were named to the All-Star Game, and while he’s a candidate for the final spot, it’s no guarantee he’ll make it.
Big Papi, big coincidence
On Sunday, David Ortiz played the field for the first time in a non-interleague game since 2006. Incredibly, it was the first game in Boston’s 17,867-game history that the team’s first baseman did not record a putout, according to Elias. It’s one of those unbelievable occurrences that makes baseball so quirky. Boston’s opponent, the Astros, do strike out a ton: their 816 Ks through Wednesday are the most in baseball by 50. And sure enough, they did strike out 14 times on Sunday. But the fact that nearly all the other outs were flyballs or line drives is pretty remarkable. Of the two outs recorded on the ground, one was ruled batter’s inference and the other was handled by Ortiz, who flipped to the pitcher for the out. It’s not easy to hide a weak glove at first base, but Boston managed to do it through a combination of unusual circumstances.
Walk it out of here
There were three walk-off home runs this past week. All came with the game tied, but they were still thrilling. Brian Dozier, an All-Star final ballot candidate, went deep in the 11th inning on Monday. He hit another homer on Wednesday to give him 18 on the season. The next day, Paulo Orlando hit a walk-off grand slam in the ninth to give the Royals a 9-5 win over the Rays. It was Orlando’s first at bat with the bases loaded. On Wednesday, Adam Eaton snapped a 6-6 tie in the 11th to give the White Sox a win over Toronto. Based on the video evidence, it doesn’t look like too many saw that one in person, but it doesn’t make it any less exciting.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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