NEW YORK – One by one they came out of the bullpen, hard throwers on a mission to shut down many of baseball’s top hitters.
Max Scherzer and Chris Sale. Felix Hernandez and Matt Moore.
Heat and more heat.
Even with its own studs such as Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw, the National League couldn’t match up. The AL’s 3-0 victory at Citi Field on Tuesday night was an arms showcase.
“We all came tonight and we brought it,” Scherzer said. “You got guys who just can absolutely light up a radar gun, but not only that, throw multiple offspeed pitches for strikes.”
It was just the third shutout for the AL, following 1946 at Boston’s Fenway Park and 1990 at Wrigley Field.
Scherzer, throwing at up to 99 mph, pitched a 1-2-3 first. The White Sox’s Sale followed with a pair of perfect innings, reaching 96 mph, to earn the win.
Six up. Six down.
Against baseball’s best.
“I don’t think I’ve been a part of a baseball experience like that in my entire life,” Sale said.
The rest weren’t shabby either, with Greg Holland topping out at 97 and Grant Balfour at 95. Matt Moore, Steve Delabar and Joe Nathan all reached 94, Brett Cecil 93 and Felix Hernandez 92, throwing sinkers on nine of 13 pitches.
Mariano Rivera threw 16 pitches, all cutters ranging from 89 to 91, in a perfect eighth remembered for his introduction, when the other All-Stars left the field to him alone during a 1 1/2-minute ovation.
The NL managed three hits and one walk for four baserunners in all. And these weren’t just any batters, but All-Star sluggers with shining colored spikes and enough honors to fill two dozen trophy dens.
“It’s not fun,” said David Wright of the host New York Mets. “You think of the broad spectrum of being an All-Star and it gets you excited. And then when you get down to the nitty-gritty and you look in there and you’ve got to face those pitchers, it’s like, ‘OK, maybe this isn’t as fun as I thought it was going to be.’ Every guy comes in throwing high 90s with good secondary pitches. And this is difficult.”
Carlos Beltran’s one-out single to left-center in the fourth against King Felix gave the NL its first baserunner, and pinch runner Andrew McCutchen was stranded on third base when Wright grounded out.
Hernandez isn’t used to warming up in the middle of a game.
“It was pretty weird. I don’t feel that comfortable that way,” he said.
Michael Cuddyer reached on a leadoff walk against Balfour in the sixth, Wright singled softly to center against Greg Holland in the seventh and Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep right off Nathan in the ninth.
“That’s a good lineup we threw out there, a lot of great hitters,” NL manager Bruce Bochy said. “They shut us down.”