KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bryce Harper finally acted his age at the All-Star game.
The 19-year-old Washington Nationals phenom lost a fly ball in the lights and got hung up between second and third Tuesday night during the NL’s 8-0 victory over the American League. At the plate, he was 0 for 1 with a strikeout and a walk.
Still, his gaffe in left field and rundown on the bases didn’t stop Harper from savoring the moment.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a great game,” he said.
The only All-Stars younger than Harper were a pair of 19-year-old pitchers: Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets in 1984 and Hall of Famer Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians in 1938.
That made Harper the youngest position player to be selected for an All-Star team, perhaps qualifying as much for his potential as for production. He was batting .282 at the break with eight homers and 25 RBIs.
Harper was among an All- Star-record five rookies this year, one more than in 2001 and 2003. The 2001 class is pretty distinguished — Albert Pujols, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Sheets and Ichiro Suzuki. In 2003, the rookies who made it were Lance Carter, Mike MacDougal, Hideki Matsui and Dontrelle Willis.
Among other rookies, 20-year-old Mike Trout of the Angels had a hit, a walk and a stolen base. Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks allowed a hit in one-third of an inning and Ryan Cook of the Athletics worked a scoreless inning.
“I’m going to remember this the rest of my life,” Trout said.
SO LONG, CHIPPER: Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who has announced his intention to retire after the season, got a standing ovation from the crowd at Kauffman Stadium.
Many of the fans had never seen him play in person before.
In a strange quirk to interleague scheduling, the Braves have never played in Kansas City, so the eight-time All-Star was making his Kauffman Stadium debut. Jones entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and grounded a single past second baseman Ian Kinsler to another appreciative roar.
NL manager Tony La Russa suggested that Jones address the team before the game, and he took him up on the offer.
“We’ve won two. Win three, and that’s a winning streak,” Jones told the team. “We have an opportunity to do that tonight. And I am not going out losing my last one. So, you with me?”
Indeed, they were.
BILLY’S AT-BATS: Designated hitter Billy Butler, the Royals’ lone All-Star representative, was given a standing ovation when he entered the game as a pinch hitter for David Ortiz in the seventh inning.
Butler grounded out to shortstop, but got another chance with Elvis Andrus on second base and one out in the ninth. After another ovation, Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan struck out Butler.
The affable Butler may not have gotten his chance if not for Ortiz, who started the game as the AL’s designated hitter. It was Ortiz who pushed manager Ron Washington to make the lineup change.
“Washington wanted me to take a third at-bat,” Ortiz said after leaving the game, “but I said, ‘Let my boy come in for his fans.”’
BRAUN NIGHT HELPS NL: Ryan Braun was back in the spotlight at the All-Star game. And this time, it was for what happened on the field.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger was in the middle of everything early on for the National League, driving in the first run and playing solid defense in an 8-0 victory against the American League on Tuesday night.
Braun, last year’s NL MVP, spent much of the offseason defending himself after testing positive for a banned substance. He got his 50-game suspension overturned in February and has gone back to being one of the best players in the game.
At the All-Star game, he showed it.
The NL won its third straight All-Star game, with retired manager Tony La Russa, who led the Cardinals to an improbable World Series title last year, pulling the strings.
“If you’re trying to win one game, there’s not a better manager out there,” Braun said. “It’s only fitting that he went out with a win.”
Batting third, Braun jump-started a five-run first off Justin Verlander with an RBI double that drove in the first run. He added the NL’s All-Star game-record third triple in a three-run fourth.
He chipped in with a pair of nice defensive plays in left field, too, tracking down Josh Hamilton’s drive at the wall in the first and then snaring a liner by Prince Fielder to end the fourth.
Only Jose Bautista’s sliding catch of a looper to right denied Braun a third hit.
Braun leads the National League with 24 homers and is among the leaders with 61 RBIs. He skipped the Home Run Derby, saving his cuts for when it counted for his league.
News leaked in December that Braun had tested positive for a banned substance with a urine sample he provided after an Oct. 1 playoff game showing a high level of testosterone. He maintained his innocence, and became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.
Braun’s lone appearance in the home run derby came in 2008 at Yankee Stadium. He said he avoided the 2012 contest because it was too much of a pressurized environment.
He ticked off the reasons why not to swing before the game. The setting is unfamiliar, there’s no batting cage, cameras are stationed all over the field and a packed house has its eyes fixed on in anticipation you’ll muscle up on a practice cut.
Braun had said the home run hitting contest was just about as nervous as he’d ever been on a baseball diamond.
At ease in the All-Star game, Braun was at his best.
CAMEO APPEARANCE: National League All-Star manager Tony La Russa’s longtime right-hand man doesn’t think he’ll return to the game, either.
Dave Duncan, La Russa’s pitching coach for more than 30 years with the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, is on an open-ended leave of absence to be with his ailing wife and is living in southwest Missouri. He hasn’t officially retired but said Tuesday he didn’t anticipate coaching again.
Janine Duncan’s condition has stabilized after surgery to remove a brain tumor last summer.
Derek Lilliquist was promoted from bullpen coach to pitching coach in January.
Duncan tutored several Cy Young Award winners, including LaMarr Hoyt, Dennis Eckersley and Chris Carpenter. With the Cardinals, he was credited with helping to resurrect the careers of Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan and Kyle Lohse.
It was La Russa’s decision to start the Giants’ Matt Cain over Mets 12-game winner R.A. Dickey. He and Duncan collaborated on the best spot to use Dickey, given neither of his catchers has much, if any, experience with a knuckleballer.
BOO BIRDS: Indians closer Chris Perez was prepared for a frigid welcome from fans in Kansas City after some actions and remarks that drew some heat earlier this season.
During a series early in the season, he mocked the “Our Time” slogan the Royals adopted for this season in an inflammatory posting on Twitter. When the teams met again in Cleveland, he drew more ire for a taunting gesture directed at the Royals’ Jarrod Dyson after striking him out.
“I’ve been booed before. It probably won’t be the last time,” Perez said, “but at the same time, I’m playing for the AL. I’m trying to help the AL win.”
That’s why Perez hopes the boos at Kauffman Stadium aren’t quite as loud as they were for the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, who was pounded mercilessly during the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night.