Scherzer and Soto lead Nats All-Stars in Midsummer Classic

Although the American League won its eighth straight All-Star Game 5-2, the Nationals were well represented on the National League side Tuesday night.

In taking the mound to kick off the game at Coors Field in Denver, Max Scherzer went from one of the last players named to the NL roster to making his fourth Midsummer Classic start. He is now one of just six pitchers in the game’s history to make that many starts.

Scherzer started the game by getting opposing starting pitcher and leadoff designated hitter Shohei Ohtani of the Angels to ground out on two pitches. For the second time in less than 24 hours, Ohtani was bested by a Nats All-Star after Juan Soto eliminated him from last night’s Home Run Derby in the first round.

Ohtani finished 0-for-2 with two groundouts at the plate and a worked a perfect bottom of the first on 14 pitches, 10 of them strikes, on the mound, concluding an underwhelming week for his highly anticipated All-Star debut, partly in thanks to Scherzer and Soto. Though the two-way star was credited as the winning pitcher.

Back on April 27, Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. tagged Scherzer for two home runs, including a grand slam. In Guerrero’s first at-bat tonight, Scherzer got him to ground out on four pitches with a sharp line drive right back up the middle that almost hit the starting pitcher.

“I’m alive ... that’s the success story ... I’m just grateful I still have a blue eye and a brown eye,” Scherzer told reporters after exiting the game. He called that play “a pitcher’s worst nightmare.”

Red Sox shortstop Xander Boegaerts then struck out on five pitches to finish Scherzer’s 1-2-3 top of the first.

Boegaerts was mikd up on the FOX broadcast during his at-bat, and when asked by play-by-play man Joe Buck what he was looking for from Scherzer in a 2-2 count, he replied, “Fastball.”

Scherzer greeted him with an 87 mph slider instead for his only swing-and-miss and strikeout of the night.

You think this was just an exhibition game for the Nationals ace? Scherzer topped out at 97 mph and sat at 96 mph in the first inning.

In the top of the second inning, the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes replaced Scherzer, who exited - most importantly healthy - after the perfect first inning and 11 pitches, seven of which were thrown for strikes. Burnes immediately gave up a walk, a double and an infield single to allow the AL to score the game’s first run. He then gave up a 468-foot home run to Guerrero in the third inning for a 2-0 AL lead, the longest All-Star Game homer tracked by Statcast (since 2015) and the second-youngest player to go deep in the Classic.

Scherzer has now started three times for the NL and once for the American League as the fifth pitcher ever to start an All-Star Game for both leagues. Scherzer earned the honor this year by going 7-4 with a 2.66 ERA, 0.878 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 17 starts with the Nationals.

Over his eight career All-Star Game appearances, Scherzer has pitched seven innings, allowing four hits, one earned run and one walk with 11 strikeouts.

NL manager Dave Roberts of the defending World Series champion Dodgers also said the fact that the 2019 world champion Nationals and manager Davey Martinez were unable to be honored at an All-Star Game last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic played into his decision to give Scherzer the ball to start tonight’s game, even as a replacement player.

As for Scherzer’s Nationals teammates, Soto and Trea Turner entered the game in the top of the fifth inning and the top of the seventh inning, respectively.

Soto replaced the Reds’ Nick Castellanos in right field and had three balls hit his way during the AL’s two-run frame: a leadoff double off the wall, a groundball RBI single and a flyout to end the inning.

Enter the game and the ball will find you.

In his first at-bat in the five-hole, Soto drew a five-pitch two-out walk - while also showing off his famous shuffle - against Athletics pitcher Chris Bassitt to load the bases. Soto advanced to second on a passed ball during the next at-bat as the NL scored its second run of the game.

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant struck out on four pitches to end the threat to keep it a 5-2 game.

Turner replaced the Giants’ Brandon Crawford at shortstop and in the leadoff spot. NL pitchers struck out four batters in a row before walking the Rangers’ Joey Gallo after Turner entered the game.

Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies was miked up during the bottom of the seventh, and then the AL finally put runners on first and second, setting up the possibility of a double play ball.

“He’s an awesome guy, fun guy,” Albies said of Turner on the FOX broadcast.

After a 3-6 putout at second base, Turner could be overheard on Albies’ microphone saying, “I was terrified.”

Turner led off the bottom of the eighth and popped out to right on the first pitch from Red Sox right-hander Matt Barnes. FOX wasn’t fully back from commercial break, so you couldn’t even see Turner’s swing if you were watching on television.

Soto-All-Star-Game-Denver-Sidebar.jpgSoto returned to the plate for his second at-bat with two outs and two runners on base in the bottom of the eighth inning with the NL down 5-2. After falling behind 0-2 to Barnes, the he battled back to draw another walk to load the bases.

Even in an exhibition game, he’s special.

Bryant lined out to left field to once again end the NL’s late rally.

Turner returned to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Albies on second base. He promptly grounded out on the first pitch to end the game with the AL on top 5-2. He saw and swung at the only two pitches he saw.

Kyle Schwarber was unable to play in the game while on the injured list with a right hamstring strain.

The National League hasn’t won the All-Star Game since 2012 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, its last of three straight Midsummer Classic wins.

The American League now leads the all-time series 46-43-2, while also holding a slight edge in total runs scored at 378-372.

Guerrero was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, the youngest in the game’s history. He and his father, Vladimir Sr., joined the Bonds (Bobby and Barry) and the Griffeys (Ken Sr. and Ken Jr.) as the third father-son duo to homer in the All-Star Game.

Next year’s All-Star Game will be held at Dodger Stadium, where it was supposed to be held last year.

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