On the same night Major League Baseball named its four greatest living players, Mike Trout reminded everyone that he is the greatest active player. Trout homered off of National League starter Zack Greinke to lead-off the All-Star game and eventually took home the Most Valuable Player award after the 6-3 American League victory. Trout is the first back-to-back All-Star MVP in MLB history.
Trout accomplished with one swing what no TEAM in the National League has been able to achieve since June 13 -- score a run off of Greinke. Greinke entered the game with a 35.2 inning scoreless streak, but Trout only needed four pitches to "end" that streak. Trout took a 1-2 pitch from Greinke out over the right field wall to give the AL an early lead.
Greinke may have allowed the homer to Trout, but he hardly pitched poorly. The Los Angeles Dodgers' right-hander tossed two innings and he struck-out four, becoming the first pitcher to strike-out four in an All-Star Game since 1999, when the great Pedro Martinez accomplished the feat.
Houston Astros' ace Dallas Keuchel started the game for the American League and he breezed through the first inning. In the second inning, Arizona Diamondbacks' slugger Paul Goldschimdt led off the inning with a slow grounder down the third base line. AL third baseman Josh Donaldson made a nifty play on the ball charging in, but then he airmailed the throw to first. Goldschimdt was credited with a hit and he would reach second on the error. Keuchel retired Buster Posey and Anthony Rizzo, but Jhonny Peralta blooped a soft liner in front of right fielder Lorenzo Cain to tie the game, 1-1.
The game remained tied until the top of the fifth when the AL rallied against Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw, of all people. Royals' shortstop Alcides Escobar singled to left to start the inning. That brought Trout to the plate in a battle between Los Angeles' two premier baseball talents. Kershaw got Trout to hit a grounder to second, but Trout's speed was too great for the NL to turn the double-play. Trout's hustle would loom large when Kershaw walked Albert Pujols with two-outs and then Prince Fielder knocked an opposite field RBI single to give the AL a 2-1 lead. The left-handed hitting Fielder pinch-hit for right-handed Nelson Cruz, a move one would never see during the regular season versus Kershaw, but it worked on this All-Star night. Cain then followed Fielder with a groundball double to left and the AL suddenly had a 3-1 cushion. They would never relinquish the lead.
In the top of the sixth, New York Mets' right-hander Jacob deGrom had a half-inning for the ages. Throwing 97 MPH fastballs, deGrom mowed through Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis and Jose Iglesias, striking out all three on just 10 pitches. When Pittsburgh Pirates' centerfielder Andrew McCutchen hit a long lead-off homer to start the bottom of the sixth that cut the AL's lead to 3-2, it looked like the NL would grab the momentum. The AL bullpen wouldn't let the NL get any closer, however. Zach Britton got the final out of the sixth and then Dellin Betances and Wade Davis combined to keep the NL off the scoreboard in the seventh and the eighth.
In the top of the seventh, Trout started another AL rally, this time with a lead-off walk. Boston's Brock Holt pinch-ran for Trout and promptly stole second base. Holt came around to score on Manny Machado's double and two batters later, Machado scored on Fielder's RBI flyout. The AL added another insurance run in the top of the eighth when Minnesota Twins' second baseman Brian Dozier took Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon deep. Ryan Braun tripled to lead-off the bottom of the ninth for the NL and scored on a flyout, but Glen Perkins was able to close out the 6-3 AL win.
Trout's first-inning homer was the first lead-off homer in an All-Star game since Bo Jackson went deep to start the 1989 game. Trout also achieved an All-Star game cycle with the homer, having now singled, doubled, tripled and homered in his first All-Star at-bats in each of the past four seasons. Trout is 5-for-8 in his All-Star game career. Fielder's RBI single off Kershaw also completed his All-Star cycle. Trout and Fielder are the ninth and 10th players in MLB history to "cycle" during their All-Star careers.
Home Run Derby champion Todd Frazier had a quiet All-Star game in front of his home crowd, but his Reds' teammates Aroldis Chapman put on a show in the top of the ninth. Chapman struck-out the side on 14 pitches. None of the 14 pitches were slower than 98 MPH and all but two pitches were triple digits. Players in the AL dugout were caught on camera laughing in disbelief over the show Chapman put on.
With the AL's victory, home field advantage will once again belong to the Junior Circuit during the World Series. The AL had home field last year, but the Kansas City Royals were defeated at home in Game Seven by the San Francisco Giants.