Orioles closer Zach Britton provided his typical lockdown services Tuesday night, this time for the American League.
The Orioles closer – who converted all 27 save attempts during the first half of the season – shut down the National League while pitching to battery-mate Matt Wieters in the ninth inning of the AL’s 4-2 win at Petco Park in San Diego. He helped assure that the eventual AL champion will have home-field advantage in the World Series.
It was an otherwise quiet night for the Orioles, who had five representatives in the game. Third base starter Manny Machado went 0-for-3, substitute catcher Matt Wieters went 0-for-2 and Mark Trumbo went 0-for-1, but reached on an error. Reliever Brad Brach wasn’t used.
Despite allowing a leadoff hit to Daniel Murphy, left-hander Britton recorded the first All-Star Game save by an Orioles pitcher since Don Aase closed out the 1986 game at the Astrodome.
Britton used his hard ground-ball sinker to induce two ground-balls after Murphy’s hit, including the game-ending 5-4-3 double-play off the bat of Nolan Arenado on a 97-mph sinker.
Wieters – who made the fourth all-star appearance of his career and his first since elbow ligament reconstruction surgery two years and two months ago -- caught the final four innings, framing the biggest pitch of the night, Houston closer Will Harris’ full-pitch third strike on Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz with the bases loaded and two outs.
Gone are the days when the Orioles had a sole representative, and that coincides with the franchise’s return to contention in 2012. The Orioles’ 20 All-Stars over the last five seasons ranked most of any AL team over that span and second in the majors over that span behind the Cardinals’ 24 All-Stars.
That gave the outcome of Tuesday’s game added meaning for the AL East leading Orioles, because AL won home field advantage in the World Series for the 11th time in 14 years that the All-Star Game decided that.
Machado – who has emerged as a leading AL MVP candidate with his best offensive start to the season – earned his first starting nod in reaching his third career All-Star Game just one week after turning 24. Machado was clearly eager to make a mark, grounding out on the first pitch in his first two-at bats before flying out to the left-field warning track in his third plate appearance.
Trumbo, the league's home run leader, also entered the game in the sixth, reaching on a Corey Seager fielding error in his first at bat in the seventh. He was stranded on third base.
Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez each hit home runs in the second inning off former teammate Johnny Cueto, who's now with the San Francisco Giants. Hosmer, who also delivered an RBI single, was named game MVP.