Red Sox players have minimal impact in 2019 MLB All-Star Game
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox had three hitters on the American League All-Star team but none of them produced much in their limited playing time.
We spent so much time worrying about which Boston Red Sox players were snubbed from this year’s All-Star Game. Then the few who did make the trip to Cleveland for the Midsummer Classic came up empty.
Alex Cora led the American League squad to victory but the trio of his own players who were selected to the roster had little to do with it.
J.D. Martinez was the only Red Sox player in the starting lineup, serving as the designated hitter in place of the injured Hunter Pence. Martinez hammered a Clayton Kershaw slider deep to left field that was caught at the wall for a loud out to lead off the second inning. He struck out in the fourth inning against Luis Castillo and was replaced by Daniel Vogelbach the next time through the order.
Martinez was the only Red Sox player to receive multiple plate appearances, as did most of the AL starters. First baseman Carlos Santana, playing on his home field in Cleveland, was the only one who received three plate appearances.
Xander Bogaerts saw his lone at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. He grounded into a double play, scoring Matt Chapman from third in the process. Bogaerts would end up with an empty 0-for-1 and wasn’t credited with the RBI but he did technically contribute to the score in a game that was ultimately decided by one run. A double play with men on the corners and nobody out obviously isn’t what you want but the AL needed that one run to stave off the National League’s late rally.
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Cora opted to use his shortstop in a pinch-hitting role rather than making a double-switch that would enable Bogaerts to field his position. Francisco Lindor had entered the game as a defensive replacement only one inning earlier so it was too soon to send the Indians shortstop to the bench in front of his home fans. The former Gold Glove winner is also a superior defensive player so sticking with Lindor over Bogaerts was the right call.
Bogaerts made the team as an injury replacement for Pence. It’s fitting that Bogaerts was never asked to use his glove when he was taking the spot of the guy who the fans voted in as the starting DH.
The most baffling aspect of this game is that reigning MVP Mookie Betts never stepped to the plate. He took over in right field in the eighth inning after Bogaerts had hit for Austin Meadows but that proved to be too late for his turn in the lineup to come up again.
Cora explained to reporters after the game that minimalizing Betts’ role was done intentionally in order to ensure that the players making their first All-Star appearance received sufficient playing time.
"“There were other guys that we wanted to play,” Cora said, per Masslive.com. “There were a lot of first-timers. And we kind of like mapped it out.”"
Betts had been there before and will undoubtedly have many more All-Star appearances in his future. He confirmed that Cora revealed his gameplan to him ahead of time and he was fine with it.
Some All-Star Game managers give their own players extra opportunities to give them a better chance at earning the MVP award. Others are reluctant to show favoritism. Cora simply wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to play. Maybe he gave everyone a participation trophy and took them out for pizza after the game. Wow, when you put it that way, Rafael Devers really should have been there!
In fairness, Betts would have stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth in the NL had rallied to tie or take the lead. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side to end the game without the slightest threat of a comeback, depriving Betts the chance to grab a bat.
The AL extended its All-Star Game winning streak to seven so Cora’s managerial decisions clearly paid off. It’s unfortunate that Red Sox fans who tuned in didn’t get to see much of their team’s stars but hopefully, they are simply saving their production for the second half when the games actually count.