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Elías Diaz Comes Up Clutch, Phillies Stars Shine, NL Snaps All-Star Skid

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Morgan Killian-Moseley


SEATTLE, WA- Colorado Rockies catcher Elías Diaz was named All-Star MVP as he came through with a two-run pinch-hit home run in the top of the 8th inning to give the National League a 3-2 win over the American League in the 93rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Seattle's T-Mobile Park, snapping a nine-game losing streak for the Senior Circuit.


Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Nick Castellanos's walk set up Diaz's homer, and Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel was able to walk the tightrope in the bottom of the 9th to give Phillies skipper Rob Thomson the win in his All-Star managerial debut.


The game started with a couple flashes of leather. Leading off the game, Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a deep fly ball to right field off of AL starter Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, but was robbed of extra bases by his counterpart- Texas Rangers right fielder Adólis Garcia. The next batter, Los Angeles Dodgers 1st baseman (and Acuña's former Braves teammate) Freddie Freeman, hit a deep drive to the opposite field as well- only to be robbed of extra bases himself by left fielder Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays. Arozarena then struck his signature pose, much to the delight of not only the fans, but both teams as well.


The AL struck first in the bottom of the 2nd as Rays 1st baseman Yandy Diaz hit a solo home run into the bullpen area in left field on an 0-1 breaking ball from Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller.


In the top of the 4th, the NL would respond as Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez led off with a double down the left field line off of Seattle Mariners pitcher George Kirby. One out later, the Major League batting average leader, 2nd baseman Luis Arraez of the Miami Marlins, would single to right and bring Martinez home to tie the game at 1-1.


The bottom of the 6th saw the AL retake the lead. With one out Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Pérez, pinch-hitting and taking over as designated hitter for Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani (who was greeted with a "Come to Seattle" chant from the Mariner faithful in his first at-bat), singled to right against Cincinnati Reds reliever Alexis Diaz; the co-leader in saves in the NL and the Majors. The next batter was Brent Rooker of the Oakland Athletics, who had been selected as a DH but had entered the game as a defensive replacement in left field. Rooker hit a ground-rule double to right-center field; a lucky break for the NL as if the ball had remained in play Pérez would likely have scored and Rooker might have had a chance at a triple. Pérez would be brought home by the next batter, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, whose sacrifice fly to right put the AL back in front 2-1.


That lead was nearly gone in an instant, as with one out in the top of the 7th, Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. looked to have tied the game on a solo home run just inside the left-field foul pole off of Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano, the AL leader and Major League co-leader in saves. But upon further review, Gurriel's blast had hooked outside the foul pole, meaning it was just a loud strike.

In an unfortunate twist, Romano suffered an apparent injury on that pitch and was pulled by AL skipper Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros.

Detroit Tigers hurler Michael Lorenzen came in to finish Gurriel's at-bat, and Gurriel reached on an infield single. The hit could easily have been ruled the second error of the game on Blue Jays 1st baseman and All-Star Home Run Derby Champion Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The throw from Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman was low, but if Guerrero had been able to field it Gurriel would have been out.

Gurriel's Diamondbacks teammate, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, would then draw a walk to put the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run on base, but Lorenzen was able to escape unscathed; inducing a pop out from San Diego Padres right fielder Juan Soto and fooling New York Mets 1st baseman Pete Alonso on a 2-2 changeup for the inning-ending strikeout.


In the top of the 8th, Orioles closer Felix Bautista walked Castellanos, playing center field for the first time in his career, to open the inning. That brought Elías Diaz to the plate as he pinch-hit for Marlins DH Jorge Soler, who had pinch-hit for Martinez in the top of the 5th.

Despite the fact that Bautista had his own catcher to throw to, he didn't have his best stuff. He uncorked an 0-1 fastball that was not only out of Rutschman's reach, but over the head of home plate umpire Todd Tichenor. Despite the fact the ball bounced right back to Rutschman off the backstop, Castellanos moved up to 2nd base.


All hitters are told in regards to a mistake pitch, "they hang 'em, you bang 'em". Three pitches after the wild pitch, Bautista hung a 2-2 splitter knee-high, and Diaz banged it over the left field wall to give the NL the 3-2 lead.


In the bottom of the 8th, Blue Jays 2nd baseman Whit Merrifield singled to right against Padres reliever Josh Hader, but his former Royals teammate Pérez lined out to right. And Rooker lined right into the glove of Braves 3rd baseman Austin Riley, whose smooth transition throw was picked off the dirt by Alonso, doubling off Merrifield to end the inning.


The top of the 9th saw a good chance for insurance runs for the NL. Soto singled to right with one out against Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Pablo Lopez. Another strikeout by Alonso later, Castellanos hit a lawn dart liner to left, putting two men on with two out and giving Elías Diaz a chance to add to his heroic night. But Lopez shut that chance down fast, striking out Diaz on three pitches and keeping the AL deficit at one.


Thomson turned to his own closer to get the final three outs. Rays shortstop Wander Franco came close to tying the game, ending a nine-pitch at-bat with a deep drive to right, but Soto made the catch at the warning track. Kimbrel then got Guerrero swinging on three pitches for out number two. That's when the drama intensified.


Normally Mariners fans would never root for an AL West rival to succeed, especially not the Astros considering recent history between the two teams. But if Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker got on-base, Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez would come to the plate representing the winning run. Tucker got ahead in the count 2-0, but Kimbrel battled back to make it 2-2. Kimbrel tried to paint the corner with a knuckle curveball, but couldn't hit the black and filled the count. He then tried to make Tucker chase a fastball down and in, but missed his spot. The tying run was on, and so was the J-Rod Show.


Rodriguez, who hit a single-round record 41 home runs in the Derby quarterfinals the previous night, had a chance to win the game with a longball; and was looking for redemption after striking out in the 7th against San Francisco Giants closer Camilo Doval. He took a fastball inside, then swung over a knuckle curve to even the count. Kimbrel's 1-1 pitch was a mistake, a dead-center heater that Rodriguez would have, could have, should have punished to win the game. But Rodriguez simply didn't expect it, and the AL was once again down to its last strike.

Kimbrel missed with a fastball away to even the count again, then spiked a knuckle curve in the dirt to fill it. He tried to get Rodriguez with a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner, but Rodriguez spoiled it. On the seventh pitch of the plate appearance, Rodriguez didn't get his walkoff, but he did draw a walk as Kimbrel again couldn't hit his spot on a fastball down and out.


With the tying run at second and the winning run at first, the face of the Cleveland Guardians franchise came to the plate: 3rd baseman Jose Ramirez. J-Ram had hit an opposite-field double off of Doval in the 7th. Another two-bagger would definitely tie the game and, considering Rodriguez's speed and that the runners would be taking off on contact with two outs, would most likely win it.

Kimbrel hit the inside corner with a heater, then fooled Ramirez with a knuckle curve in the dirt to put J-Ram in an 0-2 hole. Again Kimbrel tried to paint the outside corner with a breaking ball, but missed. Again Kimbrel tried to tempt a hitter with a high and away fastball, but Ramirez wouldn't offer. Finally, with his 30th pitch of the night- the most of any pitcher in the game, Kimbrel went with some high cheese at the top of the zone. Ramirez bit off more than he could chew, and that was that.


Doval, who shares the NL saves lead with Alexis Diaz and the Major League saves lead with Diaz and Romano, was the winning pitcher in his All-Star debut, while Bautista took the loss in his. Kimbrel's save is his first in seven All-Star outings (nine selections), though he did pick up the win for the AL in 2017 as a member of the Boston Red Sox.


This game marked the first time in All-Star history that two players with the same last name (Yandy and Elías Diaz) each hit a home run.


This game was also the first time both teams had a rookie in their starting lineups. Corbin Carroll of the Diamondbacks started in left field for the NL, while the Rangers' Josh Jung started at 3rd base for the AL. The only other time two rookies made the starting lineup was in 2008, when Chicago Cubs teammates Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto got the nod for the NL at right fielder and catcher, respectively.


The Braves led all teams with eight All-Stars, including every member of their regular starting infield. Shortstop Orlando Arcia was voted in as a starter, while Riley, 2nd baseman Ozzie Albies, and 1st baseman Matt Olson were selected as reserves. All four Braves infielders played the field together in the bottom of the 5th as Riley, Albies, and Olson entered the game as defensive replacements. Arcia was replaced at shortstop by Perdomo in the bottom of the 6th.


The Rangers led all teams with 5 starters, the first time a team had that many since the 1976 Reds. Jung, catcher Jonah Heim, 2nd baseman Marcus Semien, and shortstop Corey Seager were voted into the starting lineup, while Garcia was elevated to the starting lineup alongside the Orioles' Austin Hays due to injuries to the Angels' Mike Trout and the Yankees' Aaron Judge. When Rangers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi entered in the top of the 2nd, it marked only the third time six members of the same team were on the field at the same time in All-Star history, joining the 1939 Yankees and the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers.


After Yandy Diaz was removed from the game, he flew back to Tampa to support his wife as she gave birth to their first child. He's not the only All-Star who became a first-time father over the break, though, as Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase opted out of participating to ensure he could return to the Dominican Republic and witness the birth of his first child.


Looking ahead, the American League West will host back-to-back All-Star Games, as next year's Mid-Summer Classic will take place at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

The 2025 All-Star Game has yet to determine its site, but Boston's Fenway Park and Atlanta's Truist Park have been rumored to be possibilities.

In 2026, in honor of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the MLB All-Star Game will be held in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. That announcement had been made back in 2019 so that legendary Phillies executive David Montgomery could witness it before he passed away after his battle with cancer.


All stats and facts provided by mlb.com and baseball-almanac.com

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