The National League ended a nine-game losing streak against the American League in the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday. The winning hit came from maybe the last player you'd expect.
Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Díaz, appearing in his first career All-Star Game at 32 years old after nine seasons in the majors, hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the NL a 3-2 win at Seattle's T-Mobile Park. It's the league's first win since 2012.
— MLB (@MLB) July 12, 2023
Díaz entered this season hitting .244/.299/.384 in his career but made the All-Star team after hitting a moderately better .277/.328/.435 in the first half. Even so, his numbers hardly stood out among his teammates, and he was facing arguably MLB's top reliever in Félix Bautista of the Baltimore Orioles. Bautista holds a 1.07 ERA, 23 saves and 84 strikeouts in 42 innings this season.
In a 2-2 count, Bautista threw his splitter, against which batters are hitting .143/.196/.179 in 2023, per Baseball Savant — and Díaz took it for a ride. He was overjoyed as he ran the bases.
That homer was enough to earn Díaz All-Star Game MVP honors.
"I was caught up in the moment," Díaz told Fox Sports afterward through an interpreter. "I had never really thought I would be in this position in my career, but to be able to contribute to the win and be the MVP, that's something really special."
Díaz entered the game with a strong personal endorsement from Rockies manager Bud Black, who NL manager Rob Thomson said told him, “This is one of the finest people you’ll ever meet. … If he doesn’t play, that’s fine. If he does play, that’d be great. He’s just happy to be there.”
Camilo Doval of the San Francisco Giants got the win, Bautista took the loss, and Philadelphia Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel got the save, though Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco came a few feet shy of tying the game with a shot to the warning track in the ninth inning.
Here's everything else that went down during a fun game in Seattle.
All-Star Game opened with highlight-reel catches by Adolis García and Randy Arozarena
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole got the start. On paper, it was an effective and efficient inning, as he put down all three batters on nine pitches.
In practice, however, it was an adventure.
Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. nearly hit an opposite-field home run to open the game, but a brilliant catch by the Texas Rangers' Adolis García in right field robbed him. Then Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, who was roommates with García when they were both St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, made a similarly excellent catch in left field against Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman.
“You got to trust your defense. I mean, I'm here to throw strikes," Cole said. "I was a little more worried about Freddie’s than I was about Ronald's, but either way, like, yeah, you’ve got to trust your defense. You got world-class guys out there running down the ball. So I think it worked out great.”
Arozarena also chipped in a hit in the bottom of the inning but was caught stealing to end the frame.
Yandy Díaz celebrates impending child with homer
Rays third baseman Yandy Díaz is having a big week. The American League's current leader in on-base percentage scored the first run of the game in the second inning, with a homer off Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller.
That would be the biggest highlight of the All-Star break for most players, but Díaz happened to be playing with his wife expecting their first child Wednesday. Per MLB.com, Díaz didn't fly to Seattle with his Rays teammates, instead opting to stay in town until a late-night flight Monday. He was also the only AL starter to skip batting practice before the game.
After the game, Díaz will reportedly fly back to Florida and land around 6 a.m., with his wife's C-section scheduled for 7 a.m.
Mariners fans make their pitch to Shohei Ohtani
Players on the home team's divisional opponent usually get a lukewarm reception at best in the All-Star Game, but Shohei Ohtani is not like most baseball players.
The Los Angeles Angels' two-way phenom, who is on track for a historically lucrative free agency after this season, got the start as the AL's designated hitter. As he came up to bat, the Seattle crowd delivered a chant that almost felt premeditated: "Come to Seattle!"
The "Come to Seattle!" chants are LOUD for Shohei Ohtani 🌟 pic.twitter.com/XrCUzKmuqv
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 12, 2023
“Never experienced anything like that. Definitely heard it,” Ohtani said afterward through an interpreter. He added that he likes the city and has spent some time there in the offseason — in case Mariners fans hadn't already committed enough of their emotions to the idea of the former MVP in a teal uniform.
Another contender for Ohtani's services, the Los Angeles Dodgers, came up when Freeman and Mookie Betts were interviewed on the broadcast. Asked if they wanted to start their own chant for Ohtani, Freeman said, "That would be tampering."
On the bright side for Los Angeles (the non-Anaheim part), Ohtani said Betts is the player who most impressed him in Seattle.
Meanwhile, some Oakland Athletics fans had their own chant in the fifth inning: "Sell the team."
NL loses Lourdes Gurriel Jr. game-tying HR on replay
Before Díaz came through, the NL appeared to get a much-needed solo shot to tie the game in the seventh inning, as Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a ball to deep left field.
However, the homer was overturned to a foul ball on replay.
This will always be fair to us. 💔😭 pic.twitter.com/Z9Eq74R4mq
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) July 12, 2023
Gurriel still managed to single — against a different reliever, as Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano left the game due to injury — but a Juan Soto popup and Pete Alonso strikeout left the NL scoreless for the inning.
Julio Rodríguez got a chance at an all-time ASG moment
The penultimate plate appearance of the game was the greatest chance for drama. Mariners star Julio Rodríguez came to bat against Kimbrel with the AL down 3-2 with a runner on base and two outs. The entire crowd understood what was possible, as did Rodríguez, judging from his high-effort swinging and what he had to say after the game.
"Oh my God, that was unbelievable," he said. “I definitely was trying to win it, honestly."
Instead of a walk-off homer, Rodríguez got a walk, and José Ramírez of the Cleveland Indians struck out one batter later to end the game.