On Tuesday afternoon the Washington Nationals hosted the 89th MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park. In lineups that included Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge and many other stars of the game were two first time All-Stars in Javier Baez and Willson Contreras.
After a late push in the fan voting, both Baez and Contreras earned the starts for the National League squad at second base and catcher respectively. As the game started, after major league baseball and the Nationals honored 29 Medal of Honors recipients, it did not take long for National League starting pitcher Max Scherzer to record the first strikeout of the night.
The end of the top half of the first meant it was time for Baez to take his first All-Star Game swings. After being named lead-off hitter by Dave Roberts, Baez did not wait around to log the NL’s first hit. Moments after telling Tom Verducci he would be locked in on a fastball from American League starter Chris Sale, Baez turned around a 99 MPH heater, dumping it into center field.
While the inning quickly fizzled out, Baez’s first All-Star Game hit represented yet another step in the development of “El Mago” and rewarded, in part, the work Baez has done so far this season.
Just two innings later, it was Contreras’ turn to make an impact on the game. With the National League trailing 2-0 after home runs from Aaron Judge and Trout, the Cubs’ catcher cut that deficient in half with a solo blast to lead-off the bottom of the third. Like Baez, Contreras wasted little time selecting a pitch to hit, taking the first pitch from Blake Snell into the left field seats.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cubs representatives were unable to make much of a difference. Of course, Contreras caught the majority of the game for the NL, even attempting one of his signature back-picks in the fourth inning. Judge, the runner at first, however, was able to dive back into the bag safely.
For Baez, his only chance to make something happen came in the fifth inning. An Altuve liner passed over the head of Baez who leaped but quickly realized the ball would be too far over his head.
Overall, both Baez and Contreras represented the Cubs well, going a combined 2-for-5 at the plate.
Despite not making much of an impact, this All-Star Game symbolized an almost passing of the torch to the “younger” guys on the Cubs’ roster. While guys like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will no doubt appear in a couple more All-Star Games over the course of their career, seeing Baez and Contreras carry the torch for the North Side this season speaks volumes to the depth of the Cubs’ roster. Kind in mind, these two guys were not included in the abundance of players the Cubs sent to the 2016 All-Star Game.
With the Cubs squarely in contention this season, they will continue to need All-Star-level play from Baez and Contreras in order to reach their goal of two World Series titles in three years.
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