The rest of the regular season will be an effort to earn a division series berth instead.
“Under the old system, the Yankees and the Red Sox wouldn’t care who won the American League East,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday. “In contrast, we are all going to be treated to a pennant race that goes all the way through the end of September, and they’re going to try to win every single game to avoid that one-game wild-card.”
Ideally, the Yankees would turn to Severino in a wild-card game. Last week in Houston, Astros Manager A.J. Hinch, who led the A.L. on Tuesday, had three columns of statistics — without names — listed on a whiteboard in his office. The numbers belonged to Severino, Boston’s Chris Sale and the Astros’ Justin Verlander. Since Verlander could not pitch in the game — he had pitched on Sunday — Hinch effectively chose between Severino and Sale.
“If you take the names away, it’s remarkably similar as to how the years are,” Hinch said, before explaining why he picked Sale. “Obviously the punch-outs come from him. You can get into some fancy stats if you want, but take a step back, in the overall picture, Chris has been consistently dominant over the entire first half.”
Sale, who has 188 strikeouts in 129 innings, joined Lefty Gomez (1933-35) and Robin Roberts (1953-55) as the only pitchers to start three consecutive All-Star Games. He allowed one hit in a scoreless first inning, as Severino did in a scoreless second. Sale fanned one and Severino two — Bryce Harper on a slider and Brandon Crawford on a 99 miles-an-hour fastball.
The Mets’ Jacob deGrom then entered the game, replacing Scherzer in the top of the second. DeGrom was a sensation in his first All-Star appearance, in Cincinnati in 2015, striking out the side on 10 pitches. He got two outs on Tuesday, and then faced Trout.
Trout was the most valuable player of the All-Star Game in Minnesota in 2014, and again the next July in Cincinnati. After walking in his first plate appearance on Tuesday, he lashed a homer off deGrom on a low line drive into the left field bullpen.
The N.L. answered in the bottom of the third on Contreras’s home run, a first-pitch, leadoff liner to left off Blake Snell. In keeping with the theme of the night, neither side got another runner to third base until the next player trotted around for a homer.
That time, it was Story, the Colorado shortstop, who connected off Houston’s Charlie Morton with one out in the seventh. When it was over, three innings later, the sides had struck out 25 times and blasted homers for half of their 20 hits — a microcosm of a sport saturated in power.