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As the Twins closed up shop for the Major League All-Star break, it left a lot of sports fans without much to do. Around our house, we watched the Formula 1 race from Austria early Sunday morning, and added to our anxiety quotient by watching the weekend news shows to see what our esteemed president and his clan -- literally -- could surprise us with next.
Maybe it was a good idea to have the All-Star game just be an exhibition of the top players in the two leagues. Nothing was riding on. A victory did not earn home-field advantage for the winner. Nothing. And it turned out to be a very good game -- good pitching, some good swings, and some good defense.
There was also an outfielder wired for sound, to do an interview conversation right while the game was going on. And there was Seattle’s Nelson Cruz, coming up to bat in the sixth inning, and pausing to ask catcher Yadier Molina to take a cell-phone photo of him posing with umpire Joe West, who recently called his 5,000th MLB game.
The National League was trailing 1-0 at the time, on Miguel Sano’s RBI single up the right field line, and Molina hit an opposite-field home run off Twins ace Ervin Santana in the last of the sixth.
It stayed 1-1 until Seattle’s Robinson Cano came up in the top of the 10th inning with the game 1-1, and stroked a line drive into the right-field stands for the 2-1 victory. Cano won a new Corvette as Most Valuable Player.
Miguel Sano made the annual event interesting, both in the game and in Monday’s home run derby, when he won all his matches until the final, when New York Yankee rookie right fielder Aaron Judge put on a show. Sano beat Mike Moustakas of Kansas City, while Gary Sanchez of the Yankees eliminated defending champ Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, then Sano beat Sanchez to reach the finals.
Judge, however, is something entirely different. Sano hit 11 home runs, hitting first in the final, nd Judge hammered his 12th halfway through his 4-minute time slot. Here was Sano, a year and a half into his career, against Judge, who’s a rookie. For the three rounds, Judge hit 47 home runs, and four of them were over 500 feet!
We shouldn’t be all that surprised. At the halfway point of the regular season, Judge is hitting .329 with 30 home runs. He swings with smooth, sweet authority, and while it didn’t look like he was lambasting the ball, he sent them soaring off the glassed-in back wall at Miami’s ballpark with regularity.
That was Monday night, and the home run derby and the Tuesday night All-Star game were unexpected highlights of the sports week. Without them, I was willing to settle for looking for the full moon, and eating at our favorite restaurants, as the closest thing to sport we attempted.
Hitting some of our favorite restaurants in the area is always good sport. We made it up to the Rustic, and to Va Bene, and to the Boathouse. You can sit outside at the latter two, and keep watch for the full moon to rise above the weekend, over the Wisconsin shoreline.
It’s always a thrill to watch the full moon, red in its splendor, poke its nose up over the horizon and then ever so gradually rise like a balloon until it’s entirely clear of land. This time, however, we were walking through Leif Erickson Park. I had my camera ready as we walked through the Rose Garden and then down the Lakewalk. We stopped a couple times, not sure if that was overcast or just dark sky over Wisconsin. But we saw no moon.
Finally, we gave up and walked back to the car, parked by the Rose Garden. As we unlocked the doors, we looked up high in the sky, and there it was -- the moon. Not red, not orange, not yellow, but simply glowing white. It wasn’t a clear shot, but the moon had found a thin enough spot in the clouds that it could poke through.
The next night, home on the hill in Lakewood, I looked through the trees and got a clear look at the moon, still almost fully round, and a wonderful muted shade of red. Now it comes out!
By Tuesday night, I was ready for the All-Star game itself. It seemed more relaxed this year, and it also seemed almost devoid of the naysayers who like nothing more than to grumble about how there’s no excitement, no drama, to any major league all-star game.
Baseball is different, though, because you’ve got a pitcher trying to strike out every hitter, and some really good hitters hoping to hit a few rockets off some aces from the other league.
It was left to Sano to get things going. As a sub, big Miguel came up in the second and made a mighty swing, but hit one of the most feeble hits of his life. It sailed lightly toward right field, right down the line, and as three National Leaguers surround it, the ball dropped lazily to the turf, just inside the line. Sano laughed at himself, embarrassed, but it drove in the game’s first run.
As the Twins went, Ervin Santana went out to pitch next, and catcher Jadier Molina smacked an opposite-field drive to right-center that made him the oldest catcher (35) to ever hit a home run in the All-Star game. One to one.
Twins closer Brandon Kintzler got his chance in relief a couple innings later, and did fine. So the game stayed 1-1 into the 10th inning. American League won again, and it was worth nothing more than bragging rights. Which is enough.