Robinson Cano’s home run in the top of the 10th inning gave the American League a 2-1 win.
USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — This time, it didn’t count.
The 88th All-Star game Tuesday night was a yawner, finally ending when Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano homered in the 10th inning, giving the American League a 2-1 victory over the National League.
It was the American League’s fifth consecutive victory, and 16th in the last 21 games.
MORE ALL-STAR COVERAGE:
Yet, for most the night, the game looked more like a regular-season game between two fourth-place teams in the dog days of summer.
There were lots of strikeouts (23), a few walks (six), and two homers, draining all of the pre-game energy out of the sellout crowd of 37,188 at Marlins Park.
Why, the Fox TV cameras even caught NL manager Joe Maddon checking his watch, with the game finally ending with Cano’s homer off Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis, the defending World Series champion’s lone All-Star.
The All-Star Game was a stinker, but if nothing else, it had its colorful moments.
When Seattle Mariners All-Star Nelson Cruz walked to the plate in the sixth inning, he pulled his cell phone out of his back pocket. He handed it to St. Louis Cardinals NL All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, and asked him to take a picture of him and home-plate umpire Joe West.
Molina grabbed the camera, West and Cruz smiled, the shot was taken, and Cruz put the camera back in his pocket.
And nearly homered.
“That was a pretty weird moment,’’ Molina said.
And in the bottom half of the inning, Molina, wearing a shiny gold-colored chest protector and helmet, did homer, tying the game at 1-apiece.
“I felt like a little kid,’’ said Molina, 34, the oldest catcher to homer in an All-Star Game, “running around the bases.’’
It was that kind of night, returning the All-Star Game to an exhibition, with the winning players getting $20,000 apiece, instead of home-field advantage for the World Series.
MORE ALL-STAR COVERAGE:
Really, the most drama, and certainly emotions, was when the National League All-Stars came into the clubhouse, and kept glancing out of reverence at the glass-enclosed locker in the Miami Marlins’ clubhouse, still in disbelief.
Jeffrey Loria, who may have watched his last baseball game Tuesday night before he sells the Miami Marlins, had to stop in one last time.
Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez, whose locker was next to it, said he could still feel his presence.
It was the locker that once belonged to former Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who died the morning of Sept. 25, 2016, in a boating accident with two acquaintances.
“I look at it every day,’’ Loria said. “It still makes me sad. Not only that, he ordered his shoes last summer for the All-Star Game.
“Was there any doubt he would be in it, as long as he could throw?’’
No, this was this going to be Fernandez’s All-Star Game, turning South Beach into his own personal festival.
“The most charismatic player I’ve ever seen, ever, on any team,’’ Loria says. “He’s on my mind every single day, it’s something that just doesn’t disappear.’’
The Marlins briefly paid homage to Fernandez during the game, showing a video of their former All-Stars, which, of course, included Fernandez.
“Seeing his locker over there behind the glass,’’ Cincinnati Reds All-Star first baseman Joey Votto said before the game. “I thought of him today, and just how sad it is. I miss him. I miss his energy. I miss his smile.
“It makes me sad just thinking about what could have been.’’
National League pitcher Carlos Martinez bent down and wrote Fernandez’s initials, “JF,’’ on the mound when he came into the game in the third inning.
Washington Nationals All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper wore special All-Star Game cleats in tribute to Fernandez, with Fernandez face’s and number on his shoes.
“It’s sad because he’s not here, and we all know he would’ve been here,” said Oakland Athletics All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso, a Miami native. “At the same time, there’s a sense of energy that he is here.”
Behind the scenes was emotional for sure, but as far as the game, it badly lacked the pizazz it needed.
Home-run derby champion Aaron Judge, who electrified the joint on Monday night when he won the Home Run Derby, went hitless in three at-bats. Hometown hero Giancarlo Stanton hit the ball a total of about three feet in his three at-bats. Starters Max Scherzer and Chris Sale struck out four batters, but they pitched a combined three innings.
Maybe the All-Star Game being linked to the home-field advantage in the World Series wasn’t that bad of a concept, after all.
“To me, it’s an exhibition game,” Nationals All-Star first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said before the game. “People who think we’re not going to play hard are crazy, because when you put the best professionals in the sport on the same field, the competition is going to kick in. We’re still going to want to win.”
Yet, for an awful long time Tuesday, it looked like a whole lot like the old All-Star Games when no one really cared who won.
If nothing else, we were at least spared a tie game, which created “This Time It Counts,’’ in the first place.
We instead were left with game that will be forgotten by the time the bars closed on South Beach.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook
Gallery: Best of the All-Star Game