A year removed from a forgettable All-Star experience for Atlanta, two Braves stars delivered for the National League team in the later innings on Tuesday night.
Top closer Craig Kimbrel was the only Atlanta player to enter the 2013 MLB All-Star Game — first baseman Freddie Freeman missed the game with an injury and catcher Brian McCann, Freeman’s replacement, never entered the game — and the results were very much unlike the Kimbrel the National League is accustomed to fearing. Entering in the eighth inning, it was Kimbrel who gave up the final run in the AL’s 3-0 win, striking out just one batter and allowing three hits.
He got another shot in the seventh inning this time around … and didn’t disappoint.
Kimbrel turned in the most dominant inning of the night for pitchers of either league, striking out three AL All-Stars — Derek Norris and Brandon Moss (Oakland) and Ian Kinsler (Detroit). The strikeout streak was only broken up by a fielding error by his own teammate, Freeman, but Kimbrel still ran through the inning in 19 pitches, including four swinging strikes.
Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, joined Dodgers starters Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as the only NL pitchers to not allow a hit and strike out at least one batter. The National League ended up giving up five earned runs on seven hits, including a home run by reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, in a 5-3 loss.
And despite logging the game’s only fielding error, Freeman played well after entering the game for starting first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth inning. Defensively, Freeman made two quality plays — one being a putout on a sharply hit grounder, the other an impressive split at the first-base bag to snag second baseman Dee Gordon’s throw to end the inning.
Freeman has come to be known for his bat, though, and he came through in the top of the eighth. With trademark aggressiveness (he swung at the second and third pitches he saw), Freeman lined a single to right field off Oakland’s Sean Doolittle in his first All-Star game at-bat. (Yes, the Braves did quite well against the top players of baseball’s top team.)
It would be his only plate appearance of the night, meaning that Kimbrel pitched one inning with three Ks and Freddie Freeman logged one at-bat and got a late-inning hit. That’s some quality production from the two Braves stars.
Julio Teheran was also named an All-Star for the first time in his career but did not pitch after taking the mound on July 17 against the Cubs.
With the National League losing the Midsummer Classic for the 14th time in the past 18 meetings, any World Series representative for the league, including the Braves, will not have home-field advantage regardless of regular-season record.