CINCINNATI -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was in no mood to fool around. This was the Midsummer Classic, after all. So when he checked in for the bottom of the third, in place of American League starter Dallas Keuchel, he went at the National League hitters with a devastating combination of his power changeup and sweeping curve.
"They were swinging at the first pitch," Hernandez said after the AL's 6-3 victory in the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday night. "I knew that. I was like, 'I'm not going to give up any runs here.' So I just threw breaking balls and changeups."
Hernandez needed only eight pitches -- none of them fastballs -- to retire three batters and give himself four scoreless innings in his All-Star Game career.
The six-time All-Star entered the 2015 version with the score knotted, 1-1, got Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to line out to center field on an 0-1 changeup, struck out Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen with a knee-buckling 2-2 curveball in the dirt, then retired Reds third baseman Todd Frazier with a groundout to shortstop on a first-pitch changeup.
"It was different because I came in as a reliever, but I was just trying to throw strikes and trying to get out of it," said Hernandez, who will make his next start for the Mariners against the Yankees on Sunday in New York.
"It's always fun to be a part of this game. I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun."
Hernandez was joined by teammate Nelson Cruz, the starting designated hitter who went 0-for-2 with a swinging strikeout and a flyout to right. Cruz was making his third straight trip to the All-Star Game with his third team. He looked back fondly on a pregame conversation he had in the batting cage with most of the AL's position players, talking about their approach and how to get better.
"To be surrounded by the game's best players is always an amazing experience," Cruz said.
The AL will have home-field advantage in the World Series, but the Mariners have a lot of work to do if they hope to take advantage. They were picked by many to win the AL West, but they head into the second half of the season 41-48, sporting the second-worst record in the AL, seven games out of a playoff spot.
"We played much better the last few weeks, and we should come out pretty strong in the second half," Cruz said.
"We're still close," Hernandez added. "We've struggled, but it happens in baseball. We just have to be more consistent and be ready for the second half."