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Mike Zunino shares Shohei Ohtani’s spotlight in AL All-Star win

The Rays catcher hits a home run and makes his mark behind the plate to help make manager Kevin Cash a winner.
The Rays’ Mike Zunino, left, greets the Rangers’ Adolis Garcia after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Denver.
The Rays’ Mike Zunino, left, greets the Rangers’ Adolis Garcia after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Denver. [ JACK DEMPSEY | AP ]
Published Jul. 14
Updated Jul. 14

DENVER — A showcase planned for Shohei Ohtani became a national stage for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a few Rays, too.

Ohtani unleashed his 100 mph heat while pitching a perfect inning for the win in becoming baseball’s first two-way All-Star. Guerrero rocked Coors Field with a 468-foot home run. The Rays’ Mike Zunino homered, too, and Tampa Bay’s Joey Wendle and Andrew Kittredge also acquitted themselves well as manager Kevin Cash led the American League to a 5-2 win over the National League on Tuesday night for its eighth straight All-Star Game victory.

Players on both sides climbed to the dugout rails to watch Ohtani, and the Japanese sensation went 0-for-2 at the plate, grounding out twice as the AL’s leadoff man and designated hitter.

Zunino, in his first All-Star appearance, cracked a 433-foot solo shot in the sixth inning against the Mets’ Taijuan Walker for the AL’s final run.

Asked on the Fox broadcast after the game what was going through his head rounding the bases, the Rays catcher said, “Just trying to soak up the moment. It’s something that you dream about being here. Was just trying to get a swing off there, and it’s fun to see the results. … When stuff like that happens, it’s really special.”

Zunino struck out in his other at-bat. Behind the plate, he had a passed ball in the bottom of the sixth that allowed a run to score, and in the bottom of the ninth, he threw out the Brewers’ Omar Narvaez trying for second after a wild pitch by the White Sox’s Liam Hendriks took a fortunate bounce off the backstop right back to Zunino.

Wendle got a hit in his only at-bat and got playing time at third, and Kittredge pitched one inning of scoreless relief.

Guerrero’s third-inning drive against Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes was jaw-dropping even before Statcast revealed it went 468 feet, the longest since All-Star Games were wired in 2015.

As the ball landed at the top of the leftfield seats under the huge video board, the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. — the NL shortstop and another of the “juniors” among a record 42 first-time All-Stars — turned slowly and put both hands over his head.

Guerrero’s homer was the 200th in All-Star history. He followed in the bat path of his father, Vladimir Guerrero, who homered off Brad Penny in the 2006 game at Pittsburgh. They joined Bobby Bonds (1973) and Barry Bonds (1998 at Coors) and Ken Griffey Sr. (1980) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1992) as the only father-son duos with All-Star homers.

Guerrero was named the game’s MVP. At age 22 years, 119 days, he is the youngest MVP of an All-Star Game since the award was first given out in 1962. Griffey Jr. previously held the mark. He was 22/236 when he won at the 1992 game.

The Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto homered for the National League on a mile-high night at Coors, baseball’s ultimate launching pad.

Ohtani, a 27-year-old right-hander in his fourth big-league season, retired Tatis, Max Muncy and Nolan Arenado in order in the bottom of the first, throwing 10 of 14 pitches for strikes.

Major League Baseball made a special rules tweak for Ohtani, allowing him to be replaced as a pitcher and to remain in the game as the DH after he was done pitching. He grounded out twice. Pittsburgh second baseman Adam Frazier ranged to make a nice backhanded pickup that prevented a hit against the Nationals’ Max Scherzer starting the night.

Ohtani was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.

His shoes were headed to the Hall of Fame, which collected his cleats and other gear for display.

Ohtani said the experience was his “most memorable” in baseball.

“Obviously, I’ve never played in the playoffs or World Series, so once I do that, that’s probably going to surpass it. But this has been the most memorable,” the Angels’ double threat said through translator Ippei Mizuhara.

Ohtani combined with Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, former Ray Nathan Eovaldi, Gregory Soto, Chris Bassitt, Kittredge, Matt Barnes and Liam Hendriks on an eight-hitter.

The AL has now won 20 of the last 23 All-Star Games with one tie thrown in.

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