LOS ANGELES – The All-Star break this summer comes later than usual and deep enough in the schedule to take October off the grid. When the best players in the game fled to their hometowns late Tuesday night after the American League 3-2 win over the National League, the best team in the majors could have guessed where its path might lead.
At 64-28, the Yankees have the best record in the Majors. The next best record belongs to the Dodgers, 60-30. After the first All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium since 1980, this year could finally be another holdover from the early 80s: the Yankees-Dodgers World Series.
“Do I ever think about it? Absolutely,” said Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees, whose double-strike 457-foot homer off Tony Gonsolin of the Dodgers earned him the MVP award in the game.
“Of course, it has been like this on paper for several years, so now both sides need to get down to business and see things through. If it ends like this, great. But you don’t come here just to enjoy the game, if that’s the case. We will try to win.”
Stanton did both on Tuesday, playing and winning at a stadium just 19 miles from his alma mater, Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. His home run – deep in the stands in left center field – equalized in the fourth inning, and Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins followed, hitting the go-ahead to left field.
Nobody scored after that, 10 AL pitchers held the NL to one hit after the first half. Emmanuel Clayse, closest to the Cleveland Guardians, ended the power parade with three outs in 10 pitches, all boats moving between 97 and 100 mph.
“I don’t think it’s been seen before,” said Dusty Baker of Houston, AL’s manager. “We came out of there with some kind of gas in the bullpen, and they came out of there with some kind of gas. You thought the game would come down to home runs, big showmen like these guys.”
For the 32-year-old Stanton, the show had a deep personal resonance. Growing up, he attended about 15 Dodgers games each year, captivated by stars such as Raul Mondesi, Mike Piazza, and Hideo Nomo. When the best sluggers in the league came to town – Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa – Stanton felt drawn to Chavez Ravin.
“Even for two bats,” he said, “just try to drive over here, get a ticket on the street, and come see what they can do.”
If he gets there in time for practice, Stanton and his father Mike will take seats in each corner of the left stands to get the most out of the oncoming treasure. His All-Star teammates could tell how much it meant to Stanton to start Tuesday from left field.
“Only he talked about it a bit, he said, ‘I used to sit a few rows away from this place’ when he was little,” said Buxton, who started at center. “It’s one of those things that you couldn’t be happier for him just by being able to do what he did.”
Aaron Judge of the Yankees, who started on the right foot, said Stanton told him on their flight to Los Angeles that he would move on Tuesday. Two former Home Run Derby champions fought a friendly duel here in practice, and Stanton won.
“Pretty fun,” Judge said. “That’s why he kind of pointed at the dugout and laughed a little.”
The referee struck out twice on Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres. Kershaw, 34, finally started the All-Star Game after three Cy Young awards, an MVP title and 192 career wins. He joked about protecting his “old man’s back” and surveyed his home park from the embankment moments before the first pitch, which he says he never does.
Kershaw was moved, he said, more than he expected. He has another great season, although he missed a month with an injury and was a little shy about starting.
“Sandy had an incredible first half and he deserves it,” Kershaw said, referring to the Miami Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara, who eliminated Stanton and Buxton in the second half. “I’m glad he got the move and I’m glad he did a great job. We all know he’s the best pitcher on the planet right now.”
Kershaw, along with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, was the best of his generation, and two years ago he won his first championship ring. He might have gotten it sooner, but the Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros, who were later revealed to have illegally stolen the opposing badges.
Fans haven’t forgotten here, and some Astros stars have escaped their wrath: second baseman Jose Altuve declined the invitation, as did Toronto’s George Springer, a former Houston outfielder. (Both cited minor injuries for not showing up.) Even Orbit, the green prankster who scurries around the Astros stadium, stayed at home; every second team with a mascot sent their character to the All-Star Game.
Baker was still booed by fans, even though he didn’t manage the 2017 Astros and was, in fact, a two-time All-Star for the Dodgers. The first of his All-Star appearances for Los Angeles came in 1981, when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in a six-game World Series, the 11th game between the teams.
The Dodgers and Yankees met in the World Series at least once every decade from the 1940s to the 1980s; a joint performance in October gave the event a special majesty. Since then, the old rivals have made the playoffs 11 times in one season, but never reunited in the end.
The Dodgers-Yankees World Series would have been a dream come true for Fox, even without the installation of live mics on the pitchers, as was the case on Tuesday, when the Yankees’ Nestor Cortez animated the broadcast by speaking directly to the booth during operation.
(Alec Manoa of the Blue Jays did the same, taking the advice of analyst John Smolz and trying to play the Mets’ Jeff McNeil with a backlog. It hit McNeil’s boot.. “It was a front leg slider,” Manoa said. “Guilty.”)
The rest of the league certainly has no reason to care about potential network ratings. A lot of great teams have fallen to postseason fluke, and before the Yankees can even consider returning here, they may have to get past a much more familiar opponent.
The Astros, who have knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs three times since 2015, are third in baseball, 59-32. They’ve beaten the Yankees in three of five games this season and are set to face them again right after the All-Star break.
If Stanton does it, it will be against Baker’s team, not for it.
“Given how it looks, how complex it is, it should last a very long time,” Baker said. “I’m just sorry we have to doublehead him on Thursday.”
James Wagner made a report.