LOS ANGELES — The All-Star Game showed what baseball has become — home runs, strikeouts and offensive shifts.
The National League failed to hit a hit between the first and eighth innings of Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss, its ninth in a row.
In a sport where R&D has become as important as BP, four of five runs scored on long balls.
There were 22 strikeouts, including the last three batters on 10 pitches by Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase in a game that lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes despite just 13 hits, five walks, two hits and a runner reached on an error.
Twenty All-Stars threw 299 pitches, including 105 fastballs. The slowest fastball was 90.2 mph on 34-year-old southpaw Clayton Kershaw’s second pitch of the game.
Forty-eight was 98 mph or more, and Ryan Helsley of the St. Louis Cardinals was the speed king. The 28-year-old passed 100 mph on eight of 15 throws, the fastest a 103 mph blazer that Minnesota’s Luis Arraez fouled in the eighth.
“I went out there, showed what I had,” Helsley said. “It was a cool environment to be in this game.”
Seattle’s Ty France, greeted by Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle with “La Vie en Rose” when he hit on his All-Star debut, fouled a Helsley fastball then hit when he chased a low outside slider.
“The way the game is now, everyone is throwing so hard. It’s not fun to play against, but that’s how the game is,” France said. “To be able to get into the box on this stage was pretty cool.”
Clase, a 24-year-old right-hander from Cleveland, threw 10 pitches ranging from 97.7 mph to 100.3 mph.
“Every time the bullpen door opens, that’s speed,” NL manager Brian Snitker said. “Guys, they weren’t like that. The shooters weren’t shooting like they do now. But that’s kind of how they grow up and now they’re trained – and amazing to me, their numbers too. It’s like they keep coming.”
Defensive positioning engineered by Joe Espada, Dusty Baker’s bench coach in Houston, led to strikeouts on balls that were once hits.
Juan Soto’s third-inning rusher was gloved by second baseman Andrés Giménez 20 feet into right field. Kyle Schwarber’s bouncer in the seventh was picked up at the center of the diamond by shortstop Corey Seager, who started on the right of second, and Jake Cronenworth’s hopper went straight to second baseman Santiago Espinal at 10 feet in right field.
“Change gives and change takes away,” Baker said. “But still, I think he gives more than he takes away.”
The batter’s eye in center field offered a startling display of what baseball has surpassed – an array of high-speed cameras and radar equipment that tracks each ball’s spin, each player’s sprint and stumble.
Behind the scenes, many teams also consider their quants to be All-Stars. The Houston front office includes a quantitative developer, as well as two senior architects.
The NL made it all on Shane McClanahan’s first 13 pitches of the first inning, earning Ronald Acuña Jr’s starting double, Mookie Betts’ RBI single and Paul Goldschmidt’s homer.
The AL offense was even more condensed. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer in the fourth against Tony Gonsolin, and Byron Buxton went deep four pitches later.
That’s no surprise in a season that saw the major league batting average drop to .242, its lowest since 1967.
Baseball’s competition committee is considering changes for next season that some purists consider groundbreaking and some consider necessary. A tall clock is almost certain after testing throughout the miners this year. Shift limits have also been proposed.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is enthusiastic about change, but players seem less enthusiastic about change. Still, the union has agreed to let a majority employer committee make changes from next season.
“Our players have, unsurprisingly, been very engaged in the process,” union leader Tony Clark said, “more than willing to give their input on what makes sense, what may not make sense, what which may need to be adjusted and tweaked.”
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