By Bruce Levine–
SAN DIEGO (CBS) — The early battle in the All-Star Game between White Sox left-hander Chris Sale and Cubs batters was won by Kris Bryant on Tuesday evening. Making his second All-Star appearance in as many seasons in the majors, Bryant drilled a Sale fastball out of the park in the first inning to give the National League a short-lived 1-0 lead.
The American League would go on to win 4-2, clinching home-field advantage in the World Series.
“I was suppose to go away with that pitch,” Sale said after starting the game and allowing that lone run in an inning of work. “You could hear it, and I felt it too. He put a good swing on it. When a guy like that hits one, you just get a new one. I can’t look too far into the results of this game. We all had a good time. We were not the storyline tonight. We were here to win and watch the same person.”
Sale was referring to veteran Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who plans to retire at season’s end. Ortiz was playing in his 10th and final All-Star Game.
The irony of the first-inning home run by Bryant was that he had struck out six straight times when he faced Sale in his rookie 2015 season. That left Bryant looking forward to this matchup.
“He is the toughest pitcher that I have faced,” Bryant had said Monday. “I am hoping to do better.”
Bryant did just that.
“Honestly, I just wanted to get a hit in an All-Star Game,” Bryant said afterward. “Just hitting a home run as my first All-Star hit was special. Usually when I do good in a game, I don’t really notice it. I am lost in my own little world. It is always a different feeling when you are in a game like this. All-Star Games are special. You have the best players in the world here. I made the most of the moment, and it’s something I will remember.”
Bryant went 1-for-2, striking out against Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels in the third inning with two runners on. Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist went 0-for-2 leading off for the NL, while first baseman Anthony Rizzo was 1-for-2 and shortstop Addison Russell was 0-for-2.
White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana threw a scoreless fifth inning, allowing one hit and striking out one in his All-Star debut.
The 24-year-old Bryant became the second-youngest Cubs player to hit a home run in All-Star history. Augie Galan hit a home run in the 1936 All-Star Game when he was also 24 and two-and-a-half months younger than Bryant is now.
“It was a pretty good one,” Sale said of the ball Bryant hit. “I knew right when he hit it, it was gone. I just brushed it off. You can’t get upset in an atmosphere like this. You got to have some fun and not let it happen again.”
Bryant’s homer was the first by a Cub in the All-Star Game since 2007, when Alfonso Soriano hit a solo homer.
In all, seven Cubs have homered in the Midsummer Classic: Galan in 1936, Hank Sauer in 1952, Ernie Banks in 1960, Billy Williams in 1964, Andre Dawson in 1991, Soriano in 2007 and Bryant on Tuesday.
Although he hit a homer off of Sale, Bryant believes it will be back to square one when the Cubs and White Sox face one another in a couple weeks in a four-game series.
“This one really doesn’t count towards career statistics,” Bryant said. “To me, I am still 0-of-6 with six strikeouts against Chris Sale. He is one of the toughest pitchers I have seen. You have to attack early, because he has strikeout stuff. Chris Sale is a great pitcher. I can’t say enough about that guy.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.