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Baseball Daily Dose

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Steals Midsummer Classic Spotlight

by George Bissell
Updated On: July 14, 2021, 10:53 am ET

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Blue Jays superstar slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 2-for-3 with a gargantuan solo homer and a pair of RBI on Tuesday night, leading the American League to its eighth consecutive victory over the National League in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field in Colorado. Two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani justifiably garnered the overwhelming majority of the attention in the early stages of the contest, serving as the American League’s starting pitcher and leadoff hitter. Yet, it was Guerrero Jr. that wound up delivering the signature moment of the Midsummer Classic, clobbering a mammoth 468-foot solo shot to left field off hard-throwing righty Corbin Burnes in the third inning. He also plated a pivotal insurance run with an RBI ground out in the fifth inning. The 22-year-old generational talent was also named All-Star Game MVP, becoming the youngest player ever to win the award.

Max Scherzer twirled a scoreless opening frame in his eighth career All-Star appearance, thanks to an assist from second baseman Adam Frazier, who robbed Ohtani of a surefire leadoff single with a fantastic play to his right to kick off the ballgame. The 36-year-old veteran right-hander retired Guerrero Jr. on a screaming 111 mph lineout behind the second base bag, and also fanned Xander Bogaerts on a picturesque 87 mph slider to end the frame. Ohtani, the first two-way All-Star selection in major-league history, took the mound for a highly-anticipated bottom of the first inning. The hard-throwing 26-year-old sensation threw 14 pitches (10 strikes) and even hit 100 mph on the radar gun. He eliminated Fernando Tatis Jr. on a fly ball to left field before getting Max Muncy to ground out to second base and Nolan Arenado to chop a ground ball to short to finish a perfect frame.

Ironically, Corbin Burnes, who recorded 58 strikeouts before handing out a free pass to open the 2021 campaign, issued a leadoff walk to Aaron Judge to kick off the second inning. Ensuing batter Rafael Devers followed with a double down the first-base line before Marcus Semien plated the first run of the contest with an RBI infield single. The dynamic 26-year-old righty managed to escape without any further damage by whiffing Salvador Perez and coaxing an inning-ending double play off the bat of Teoscar Hernandez.

Lance Lynn worked around a two-out walk by Jesse Winker to hurl a scoreless third inning. Burnes came back out for another inning of work, picking up two quick outs in the bottom of the frame, before Guerrero Jr. went deep to increase the junior circuit’s early lead. Kyle Gibson took over for the American League, protecting a two-run lead in the bottom of the third inning. The 33-year-old righty got some help from Judge, who made a phenomenal catch to take away a potential leadoff extra-base hit away from Bryan Reynolds, and stranded a one-out single from Adam Frazier to keep the senior circuit off the scoreboard. Electrifying righty German Marquez entered to face the middle of the junior circuit lineup in the fourth inning, punctuating a scoreless frame with a strikeout of Perez. Nathan Eovaldi answered with a scoreless frame of his own, erasing a one-out single from Freeman with a double-play ball off the bat of Nick Castellanos.

The American League doubled their lead in the fourth inning when Teoscar Hernandez walloped a leadoff double against rookie lefty Trevor Rogers in the fifth inning and Cedric Mullins reached on an error, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez struck out, but Guerrero Jr. picked up his second RBI of the exhibition with a grounder to second base, and Bogaerts punched an RBI single to right field. Gregory Soto took over on the mound to protect a four-run lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, boasting the flashiest silver metallic glove in All-Star Game history, and wound up surrendering a solo homer to Realmuto, who lifted a majestic 430-foot drive to right-center field. The veteran backstop became the first Phillies hitter to homer in the Midsummer Classic since Mike Schmidt back in 1981.

The middle innings rolled along with Mike Zunino increasing the American League’s lead to 5-1 with a 433-foot opposite field shot off righty Taijuan Walker with two outs in the sixth inning. Chris Bassitt collected two outs before a single and back-to-back walks set the table for Kris Bryant. The 32-year-old righty was charged with a run on a passed ball, but whiffed Bryant to wriggle out of the jam with the lead intact. Freddy Peralta delivered arguably the most dominant frame of the Midsummer Classic, striking out the side in the seventh inning. The 25-year-old righty whiffed Adolis Garcia on three pitches, and also fanned J.D. Martinez and Matt Olson in a stellar 12-pitch outing. Andrew Kittredge generated a trio of groundouts to reel off a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning.

Mark Melancon, who recorded a major league-leading 27 saves during the first half, and Alex Reyes combined on a scoreless top of the eighth inning. Matt Barnes struggled to get his curveball working in the high altitude, giving up back-to-back hits to Justin Turner and Eduardo Escobar before Jake Cronenworth lined out to third base. The 31-year-old stopper handed out a free pass to Soto, loading the bases, and managed to escape thanks to a sliding grab by Jared Walsh in left field -- a position he’s never played in the major leagues -- to rob Bryant of a run-scoring hit. Craig Kimbrel and Zack Wheeler combined for a flawless top of the ninth inning before Liam Hendriks came on to slam the door in the bottom of the frame, picking up the save in the 91st All-Star Game in major-league history. It wasn’t a high-scoring slugfest in the high-octane offensive environment of Coors Field, but it was still an extremely memorable contest, which featured plenty of fresh faces with 42 first-time All-Stars, including eight under 25-years-old.

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MLB Quick Hits: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters at the All-Star Game on Tuesday that the runner on second extra innings rule and seven-inning doubleheaders are "much less likely to be a part of our permanent landscape" than other recent changes … J.D. Davis (finger) went 4-for-6 with a homer, two doubles, and three RBI in a minor-league rehab game Tuesday night with Triple-A Syracuse … Yankees promoted OF Jasson Dominguez to Low-A Tampa … Marlins promoted RHP Edward Cabrera to Triple-A Jacksonville … Red Sox first-round selection Marcelo Mayer said Tuesday that he plans to sign "as soon as possible.” … Yankees first-round selection Trey Sweeney said Tuesday that he plans to sign within the next week … Dodgers claimed RHP Jimmie Sherfy off waivers from the Giants … Brewers acquired RHP Kyle Lobstein from the Nationals for cash considerations … Pirates placed LHP Sam Howard on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain … Mets LHP Thomas Szapucki will undergo season-ending ulnar nerve transposition surgery.