DENVER — Predictions of a slugfest at Coors Field were greatly exaggerated.
In a game that took a crisp three hours, the All-Stars from the American League and National League combined for only seven runs – five of them by the Junior Circuit.
That was a very low total of runs for a game played at Coors, notorious as the most hitter-friendly field in the majors.
A Japanese pitcher got the win – an All-Star first – but a Latino slugger was the hero.
In the third inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a long two-out homer to left against Corbin Burnes, increasing the AL’s early 1-0 lead. Mike Zunino added a solo shot of his own in the sixth. Teoscar Hernandez, Guerrero’s Toronto teammate, had a double in the game, which extended the American League’s winning streak to eight in a row.
When Guerrero Jr. won All-Star Game MVP honors after the game, he became the youngest player to win it – at 22 years and 119 days old.
His home run traveled 468 feet – a record for the Statcast tracking era – and was also the 200th hit in All-Star Game history.
The scoring began in the second after Burnes, normally one of the game’s great control artists, walked Aaron Judge on four pitches and gave up a double, putting men on second and third with nobody out. Judge scored on a fielder’s choice but the AL couldn’t add on, as a double-play ended the inning.
The towering right-fielder of the Yankees also made a great grab in the outfield to rob Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds of an extra-base hit leading off the fourth.
With Miami’s Trevor Rogers on the mound in the fifth, the AL scored after an error by shortstop Fernando Tatís put runners on the corners, setting the stage for a run-scoring Guerrero groundout. Xander Bogaerts followed with a single but Judge flew out to end the threat.
Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, subbing for the injured Buster Posey, gave the Senior Circuit some hope with an opposite-field home run with one out in the fifth against Detroit’s Gregory Soto, pitching in his first All-Star Game.
The NL mounted its biggest threat in the sixth, when Manny Machado legged out a double and Oakland’s Chris Bassitt walked both Jake Cronenworth and defending National League batting champion Juan Soto. One run scored on a wild pitch but Kris Bryant fanned to leave two men on.
The National League did not score again, though Ozzie Albies smacked a two-out double with two down in the ninth against Liam Hendriks.
Spectators at the sold-out Denver ballpark also witnessed a pre-game tribute to Hank Aaron, who was named an All-Star 25 times, more than any other player. Aaron’s widow Billye made a brief appearance on the field and Aaron’s No. 44 was etched into the grass in right field, his primary position.
Aaron, who passed in January just short of his 87th birthday, spent almost his entire career with the Braves, compiling 755 home runs – a total that broke Babe Ruth’s previous mark. He still holds a long list of major records, including most total bases and most runs batted in.
Shohei Ohtani, who pitched only the first inning for the AL but stayed in the game as designated hitter, was the winning pitcher, with Burnes the loser.
The 2021 All-Stars wore special league jerseys, ending the tradition of wearing the tops of their individual teams.
With the 91st All-Star Game now part of baseball history, the American League holds a 46-43-2 edge and has scored 378 runs in All-Star play against 372 for the Nationals.
The AL has now won 15 of the last 18 Midsummer Classics.
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