CLEVELAND — Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, making his All-Star Game debut, got a lot done in three-plus innings Tuesday night. He started two double plays, engineered a double steal and walked in his only plate appearance.
“I filled up some of the scorebook,” he said. “It was good to impact the game somewhere.”
One of the categories in which DeJong didn’t mark was strikeouts. But the National League did plenty of that, fanning 16 times, while amassing only five hits in a 4-3 loss to the American League — which scored its seventh consecutive All-Star triumph.
The 16 strikeouts were a record for a nine-inning All-Star Game and three pitchers — Most Valuable Player Shane Bieber of Cleveland, Oakland’s Liam Hendriks and closer Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees — struck out three batters in an inning.
The Americans lead the competition 45-43-2, outscoring the Nationals by a total of three runs — 373-370.
DeJong’s walk came in the eighth, filling the bases, as a National League rally fell short. Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, who had homered in the sixth, next became the 13th strikeout as Cleveland’s Brad Hand fanned him on a fastball.
But Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso of the New York Mets hit a two-run single off the glove of Yankees second Gleyber Torres, who tried to make a backhand play while lined up in short center field, and 4-1 became 4-3.
DeJong then stole third and Alonso, who has one regular-season steal in his career, took second on the back end.
“The base was just two easy for me not to go,” said DeJong, who stole third once before this year — on May 19 at Texas.
DeJong said he had watched Hand for a pitch or two, looked in the dugout, laughed and waited for further instructions from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ coaching staff. ‘
“They were like, ‘Just go.’ It was just there for the taking,” said DeJong, who has six steals for the season.
The threat, and inning, ended when Chicago White Sox catcher James McCann made a diving catch of Mike Moustakas’ foul ball near the third-base dugout.
Chapman struck two out hitters in the ninth before getting a surprise visit at the mound from Yankees teammate CC Sabathia, a former Cleveland star who is retiring after the season and who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. After Sabathia returned to the dugout, drawing a huge ovation on the way from his former fans, Chapman proceeded to whiff Milwaukee’s Yasmani Grandal to end the game.
DeJong looked at five pitches, most of which weren’t close, in his trip to the plate.
“It was one of the better (feelings) I’ve had in the box for a while,” he said. “I knew there was nothing to lose, just an exhibition game.
“I saw the ball. Didn’t get anything good to hit.”
While he isn’t exactly an expert at stealing bases — he had one each in his first two seasons — DeJong knows about double plays. He leads the National League shortstops this year in double play participation.
“That was good to get some action,” said DeJong, who lamented he didn’t get a chance to make one more play. Second baseman Max Muncy of the Dodgers, who pivoted both double plays, made a diving stop on Torres in the eighth but couldn’t throw to first in time as he made the peg while on his back. DeJong had hoped Muncy would flip the ball to him.
“He wanted to make it himself,” DeJong said.
Michael Brantley, longtime Cleveland star who returned as a Houston Astros All-Star in his first year away from the Indians, put the American League ahead to stay in the second. Brantley doubled to left center off Los Angeles lefthander Clayton Kershaw, scoring Astros teammate Alex Bregman from first base.
Bieber struck out Willson Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna Jr., in succession in the National League fifth. Nothing unusual here. He has 259 strikeouts and 46 walks in his first year-plus in the majors.
But he said he hadn’t envisioned this would have been MVP worthy. When he heard that it was, he said, “I kind of lost all feeling in my body. It’s definitely not something I expected, especially being added to the (team) four or five games ago.”
Bieber also had participated in an emotional moment between innings as the Progressive Field fans stood and displayed cards that showed they were thinking about cancer victims past and present. With the Indians’ other All-Stars, Bieber was standing on the field near Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco — who recently was diagnosed with leukemia. The crowd saluted Carrasco.
“That was a really special moment,” Bieber said. “For him to be doing what he’s doing and kind of turning it over on its head into something positive and spending more time at the Children’s Hospital . . . is something only he would do.”
The Americans extended their lead to 2-0 in the fifth, opened by Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez’s double over the head of third baseman Moustakas. Austin Meadows of Tampa Bay grounded out against Los Angeles’ Walker Buehler, moving Sanchez to third. Jorge Polanco of Minnesota hit a bouncer to the right of Muncy, who knocked the ball down but could not throw out Polanco as Sanchez scored.
Blackmon hit a 384-foot homer off Oakland’s Liam Hendriks, bringing the NL to 2-1 in the sixth. Blackmon had been hitless in his first eight All-Star at-bats.
A walk to Oakland’s Matt Chapman, a single by McCann and a double play started by DeJong on Boston’s Xander Bogaerts accounted for the first of two American League runs in the seventh. Texas’ Joey Gallo then homered on San Francisco reliever Will Smith’s first pitch.
Meanwhile, the two All-Star days went by quickly, but enjoyably, for DeJong, the Cardinals’ lone All-Star representative.
“It was absolutely incredible to be in the presence of so many great players,” DeJong said. “It was everything (I expected) and more. It’s an extreme honor for me to be able to play this game at a high level and to be recognized as an All-Star is something I’ll never forget.”
The next time he is an All-Star, DeJong said, “I’d like to be a starter. This year, I was just fortunate to be here” as a commissioner’s office pick. “Next year I want to bust the door down.”
Former Cardinal Sandy Alcantara, Miami’s lone representative, worked the eighth for the National League, pitching around a leadoff single as DeJong initiated his second double play.
The last time Alcantara had pitched with DeJong behind him in the field was on Sept. 29, 2017 in St. Louis. The inning ended on a double play, started by Alcantara and turned by DeJong, one of three DeJong took part in that night.