MLB

MVP Stanton, Buxton lift AL to 9th ASG win in row

LOS ANGELES — The first All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in 42 years featured Clayton Kershaw starting in front of the home fans and appearances from Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, but the final score looked all too familiar: The American League won 3-2 for its ninth straight All-Star victory and 21st in the past 25 Midsummer Classics.

The game turned in the fourth inning when Giancarlo Stanton and Byron Buxton delivered back-to-back home runs off the Los Angeles DodgersTony Gonsolin. Neither was cheated with his swing. Stanton’s game-tying two-run shot was a 457-foot blast to left-center — longer than any home run hit at Dodger Stadium in the first half of the season. Buxton followed with a 425-foot shot down the left-field line, the seventh time in All-Star history with back-to-back home runs.

Stanton, making his first All-Star appearance for the New York Yankees since they acquired him from the Miami Marlins before the 2018 season, won MVP honors with his first All-Star hit; he had gone 0-for-6 in his previous games.

He is now one of five players to win a league MVP Award, a Home Run Derby and an All-Star Game MVP, joining Ken Griffey Jr., Miguel Tejada, Cal Ripken Jr. and Dave Parker. Stanton also is the third Yankees player to win All-Star MVP, along with Derek Jeter (2000) and Mariano Rivera (2013).

Stanton’s Yankees career has been up and down, including missing most of the 2019 and 2020 seasons with injuries, but he has 24 home runs at the break, a key part of a deep Yankees team that has a chance to beat the franchise record of 114 wins set in 1998.

It was a memorable homecoming for Stanton, who grew up going to Dodgers games and attended Notre Dame High School in nearby Sherman Oaks.

“I would sit in left field and try to scalp tickets, whatever we could afford,” he said. “To hit one out there is amazing.”

Among the 50 tickets he gave out to family and friends, one was for his father.

“My pops took me to my first Dodgers game and showed me how to love this game,” Stanton said.

Buxton admired Stanton’s home run from the on-deck circle.

“That’s probably one of the hardest balls I’ve seen hit from the on-deck circle,” Buxton said. “I don’t even know if you can put it in words how hard he hit the baseball. So for me to see him in person, be on the same team, finally be up close, it was like, ‘Wow.’ You know, like, I literally sat down. … He crushed that.”

As Buxton stepped to the plate, he said he thought: “I ain’t matching that.”

He came close.

Stanton’s Yankees teammate Nestor Cortes, who pitched a scoreless sixth inning, said he will sometimes stand at shortstop during batting practice.

“He hits balls to me, it’s so hard to react,” Cortes said. “When Stanton and [Aaron] Judge connect, it’s incredible how hard, how loud, how far the ball goes.”

AL pitchers held National League batters hitless from the second through the seventh innings, just the fourth time in All-Star history a team went at least 20 at-bats without a hit.

Cleveland Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase made his All-Star debut and finished the game off, striking out Garrett Cooper on three pitches, fanning Kyle Schwarber on three throws and then blowing a 1-2 99 mph cutter past Jake Cronenworth, just missing an immaculate inning.

For Dodgers fans in attendance, however, it was mostly about the chance to see Kershaw start an All-Star Game for the first time in his storied career. The nine-time All-Star allowed a leadoff single to Shohei Ohtani before picking him off at first base to a roar from the crowd on his way to a scoreless inning.

“I tried to take a minute at the beginning to take it all in and look around, which I usually never do,” Kershaw said. “And I think the moment itself, being here at Dodger Stadium, a place where I’ve been now for 15 years, to get to do something like this with the best in the world, is really fun. And it was also really personal for me and my family, everybody. I’m excited it’s over. I did OK. I got out of there with no runs.”

Ohtani told TV viewers as he stepped up to bat that he would swing at the first pitch — and he did, lining a fastball to center field for a single, although Kershaw said he broke Ohtani’s bat.

“You can’t throw the first pitch of an All-Star Game as a breaking ball,” Kershaw said. “He didn’t hit it over the fence, so it was a win, and we can move on. But, yeah, you kind of had to give him a heater there, I think just for everything. Had to do it.”

While facing Judge, Kershaw then picked off Ohtani.

“I just kind of lobbed it over there,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know what pitch to throw yet, so just kind of giving myself a second and I got him.”

MLB added two legacy All-Stars this year in Pujols and Cabrera.

Pujols, winner of three MVP awards, is fifth on the career home run list and third in RBIs and is playing his final season, returning to the St. Louis Cardinals after 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers. He pinch hit in the fourth inning and elicited a momentary cheer from the crowd with a towering fly ball to left field, but it was caught just in front of the warning track.

With his 3,000th career hit in April, two-time MVP Cabrera became just the seventh player with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs — and one of just two to also have a .300 career average. He entered the game in the fifth inning and grounded out to shortstop.

The NL jumped all over Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan for two runs and four hits in the bottom of the first inning, with Mookie Betts singling in Ronald Acuna Jr., who led off with a double, and Paul Goldschmidt smashing a 417-foot home run to left-center.

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