National League All-Star Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs bats in the eighth inning during the 83rd MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY -- No Cubs were harmed in the making of Tuesday's All-Star Game, which the National League won over the American League 8-0, the biggest margin of victory for a NL squad in the 83-game history of the event.
Even though "This Time It Counts™", players make sure they don't play this game and get injured for things that really count. For a time, it looked as if Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair wouldn't even get into the game; ex-Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, in his final game in uniform, used his former player David Freese at first base in relief of the Reds' Joey Votto, until LaHair came into the game defensively in the bottom of the seventh. Half an inning later, Castro was sent up to bat for Rafael Furcal. I wanted to take a photo of him batting, and had to act quickly, because Castro saw just two pitches before flying out harmlessly to center field.
Castro did make a nice defensive play in the ninth inning, forcing out Joe Mauer, but Houston's Jose Altuve couldn't complete the double play. Meanwhile, LaHair managed an even shorter at-bat, swinging at Fernando Rodney's first pitch and grounding to shortstop.
Thus and always, it seems -- Cubs hitters hacking away.
The game was over in the first inning, when NL hitters smacked Justin Verlander around for five runs; Verlander was originally supposed to go two innings, but after he threw 35 pitches in that inning, AL manager Ron Washington decided enough was enough and lifted him. For a time -- and even more so after the NL's three-run outburst off the Rangers' Matt Harrison that made it 8-0 in the fourth -- it appeared we could be headed for record All-Star territory. The record for most runs in an All-Star Game by one team is 13 (all AL teams, done three times, the last in 1998 at Coors Field) and by both teams 21 (in that same Coors Field game).
But that was it for scoring, which made for a parade of pitchers in the final two innings; LaRussa, who was known for wearing out a path between dugout and mound during the later years of his managing career, did it again Tuesday night -- making three mid-inning pitching changes over the last two innings.
There were plenty of Cubs fans in evidence at Kauffman Stadium all week; behind Royals and Cardinals fans, we were probably the third-largest fanbase in attendance, even in this awful Cubs season (so bad, apparently, that the K's PA announcer forgot that he had announced LaHair's entry into the game in the seventh inning and, when LaHair came up to bat in the ninth, said that he was "pinch-hitting for David Freese"). But after the AL went far behind, the Royals fans in the crowd had nothing to do but wait for local hero Billy Butler to come to bat, which he did, twice, including being struck out by the Pirates' Joel Hanrahan in the ninth inning.
Now, everyone in baseball has two days off -- that's a first, with no one at all playing the Thursday after the game -- before resuming the business of the regular season on Friday. For the Cubs, that'll be seeing who they can deal off before the non-waiver trading deadline 20 days from now, what possible returns they can get, and hoping Anthony Rizzo can continue his hot start. Later this morning, I'm heading on the road back to Chicago, and tomorrow, I'll have midseason grades for the team (most of them won't be pretty).