The odds of the 91st All-Star Game becoming a Philadelphia story Tuesday night were long for a lot of reasons.
Regardless of the outcome and no matter which player emerged as the MVP at Coors Field in Denver, this game was always going to be about Shohei Ohtani, the two-way superstar from Japan who has awakened the ghost of Babe Ruth this season.
Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto and ace Zack Wheeler, however, had their moments during the National League’s 5-2 loss that extended the American League’s winning streak to eight games.
With the American League ahead 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Realmuto reached out and connected for an opposite-field solo home run on a 98-mph sinker from Detroit left-hander Gregory Soto. It was the first Phillies homer in an All-Star Game since Mike Schmidt connected off Rollie Fingers in the 1981 game.
It also was Realmuto’s first hit in his three All-Star Game appearances. He had walked twice in 2018 when he represented the Miami Marlins, but was hitless in his next three ASG at-bats, including a strikeout against Lance Lynn of the Chicago White Sox that ended the second inning Tuesday night.
Realmuto left the game after the fifth inning.
Wheeler, meanwhile, did not enter the game until the top of the ninth, but he looked every bit the ace he has been for the Phillies this season. With a runner at third base and two outs, Wheeler needed only three pitches -- two 100-mph fastballs and a nasty slider -- to strike out Oakland’s Matt Olson and end the American League threat.
Even though Ohtani did not do anything spectacular, this was still his night.
The idea that one man could be the starting pitcher and the leadoff hitter for the American League was unfathomable before Ohtani left the Nippon Ham Fighters and signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2018. And in this, his fourth big-league season, Ohtani is proving that he can be an All-Star starting pitcher and a superstar hitter at the same time.
Even Ruth had to give up one (pitching) to become the other (arguably the greatest hitter of all time).
Fox came prepared for Ohtani’s coming-out party in front of a national TV audience, delivering a cartoon graphic that compared the 26-year-old to a unicorn and a superhero before flashing a likeness of Ruth winking at the player known as “Showtime.”
“Yeah, that amazes everybody,” San Diego Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. said when asked about Ohtani during an in-game interview. “You want to see the legend of Babe Ruth and this guy has started down that same path. Hopefully he stays healthy and keeps it going.”
Ohtani, facing Washington’s Max Scherzer, was robbed of a base hit by Pittsburgh second baseman Adam Frazier in the top of the first inning, then pitched a scoreless bottom of the first by retiring Tatis, Max Muncy, and Nolan Arenado. He later grounded out in the third before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.
The biggest early highlight came from Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the game’s MVP, who connected for a 468-foot home run to give the American League a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Ohtani, fittingly on his night, ended up being the winning pitcher.