WASHINGTON — J.D. Martinez walked into the visiting team clubhouse at Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon and seemed surprised to find a dozen reporters waiting at his locker.
“You guys need me?” he asked.
Martinez is one of the best players in his sport, a studious hitter who leads the majors with 29 home runs and 80 RBIs. But, at heart, he’s a former Division 2 player who was drafted in the 20th round and released after three seasons in the majors. Celebrity doesn’t come naturally after you’ve been cast aside.
Yet there Martinez was, batting cleanup behind Mike Trout and ripping a single to center field off Max Scherzer in the first inning of the All-Star Game.
“Surreal,” said Martinez, who was long out of the game when the American League beat the National League, 8-6, in 10 innings. “It’s one of those moments where it’s really cool. It’s definitely been a dream of mine to be here.
“I wouldn’t change it for anything if I could go back in time. I’m glad I failed. I’m glad I’ve fallen on my face. I feel like it made me who I am today.”
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Martinez finished 1 for 2 as the designated hitter. He struck out swinging in the third inning facing Jacob deGrom of the Mets.
In a game befitting how baseball is played in 2018, there were 10 home runs in the game, an All-Star record, and 25 strikeouts.
Chris Sale started for the American League and threw a scoreless inning. The Red Sox lefthander allowed a leadoff single by Javy Baez then retired Nolan Arenado on a fly ball to left field, struck out Paul Goldschmidt, and got Freddie Freeman on a fly ball to center. Sale hit 100.7 miles per hour with his fastball, the fastest he has thrown a pitch since at least 2010. Watching from the dugout, Martinez was impressed.
“I saw when he hit 101. I looked at him and he started laughing,” Martinez said. “Nasty, he’s been nasty. Any time you’re in this atmosphere at the All-Star Game amongst these kind of hitters and this crowd, you’re going to be pumped up. That didn’t surprise me at all.”
Sale has appeared in six of the seven All-Star Games he was selected to. He has allowed two runs on eight hits over eight innings with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Mookie Betts started in right field for the AL and was 0 for 3, striking out twice. He did manage to see 15 pitches at least.
“It was fun being around the guys and just taking it all in,” Betts said. “More relaxed, more fun for sure.”
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For Betts, the most notable moment came before the game when baseball honored a group of Medal of Honor recipients and the players formed a line to shake hands with the veterans.
“That was real cool. I have a lot of family that served,” Betts said. “It was great to see what it meant to people because it definitely meant something to me.”
Betts also made a sartorial statement, wearing a brick-hued double-breasted suit with light pink shoes to the game.
Mitch Moreland entered the game for the American League in the sixth inning. He finished 2 for 3. “Definitely a lot of fun,” Moreland said. “The whole couple of days, just experiencing all of it, the fans out there tonight, it was pretty cool.”
Of the five Red Sox players on the AL roster, only Craig Kimbrel did not get in the game. He appeared in four of the five games before the break and it was decided before the game he would pitch only if necessary.
Down 5-3, the NL tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on Scooter Gennett’s two-run homer off Edwin Diaz. The AL scored three runs in the 10th, the first two on home runs by Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer off Ross Stripling of the Dodgers. Bregman won the Ted Williams Award as MVP.
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Joey Votto led off the bottom of the 10th with a homer, but J.A. Happ finished the game.
The AL has won seven straight Midsummer Classics and 18 of 22. Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Jean Segura also homered for the AL. Trout has hit safely in all six All-Star Games he has played in at 7 of 15 with five extra-base hits and four RBIs.
Willson Contreras, Trevor Story, and Christian Yelich added homers for the NL.
Martinez and Moreland traveled back to Boston after the game. They’ll relax Wednesday, then head for Detroit later in the day Thursday. The Sox face the Tigers on Friday night.
“Hang out, enjoy the time off, and probably go get a little workout in,” Martinez said. “Start it back up again.”
The ‘Stros Bros, for the win! (Dodgers fans look away)#AllStarGame pres. by @Mastercard pic.twitter.com/1TeTC6uor3— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2018
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Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.