SAN DIEGO -- It was home sweet home (run) for Kris Bryant in his return to San Diego, which not too long ago served as a springboard for his Major League ascension.
Bryant, who left San Diego three years ago as a first-round Draft pick, came back on Tuesday as one of the Cubs' MLB-most seven representatives at the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. He launched a solo homer on the first pitch he saw as a second-time All-Star, though neither he, nor any of his teammates, could help the National League solidify home-field advantage for this year's World Series.
The American League, boosted by a pair of Royals home runs, nabbed the 4-2 victory at Petco Park.
Bryant, batting third for the NL club, turned on a first-pitch fastball from AL starter Chris Sale and drove it 410 feet into the left-field stands to become the eighth Cubs player to go deep in an All-Star Game. The last was Alfonso Soriano, nine years ago.
"Usually, any time I do something in a game that's good, I don't notice it because I'm lost in my own little world," said Bryant, who at age 24 became the youngest Cub to homer in an All-Star Game since Augie Galan in 1936. "But it's always a different feeling when you're in a game like this, an All-Star Game. The best players in the world are here. I really made the most of the moment. It was unbelievable."
According to Statcast™, the homer left Bryant's bat with an exit velocity of 111 mph, harder than all but two balls hit off Sale this season. Bryant entered the night 0-for-6 with six strikeouts against Sale and planned to be patient with his approach against the South Side ace.
His father, Mike, advised otherwise.
"He said, 'First-pitch fastball, be ready for it,'" Bryant said, recalling their pregame conversation. "I said, 'No, Dad. I'm going to take the first pitch.'
"Obviously, I should listen to my dad."
A Chicago All-Star had homered off another Chicago All-Star only once previously, that being Magglio Ordonez (White Sox) off Jon Lieber (Cubs) in the 2001 game.
Bryant, one of four Cubs in manager Terry Collins' starting lineup, attended college seven miles north of Petco at the University of San Diego. There he won the 2013 Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award as the best college player in the country. And the locals haven't forgotten, as Bryant received one of the loudest pregame ovations for any non-Padres player.
Then he delivered what they wanted.
"That's the biggest stage you can be on right now," said teammate and starting first baseman Anthony Rizzo. "And he shined -- like he always does."
Rizzo finished 1-for-2 with a single -- and robbed Boston's David Ortiz of a potential hit with a slick play at first -- while middle infielders Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell each went hitless in two at-bats, but they all achieved a rare feat simply by taking the field together in the first inning. With that, the Cubs joined the 1963 Cardinals as the only teams in Major League history to man an entire All-Star starting infield.
"It felt like a normal game," Bryant said. "Throwing the ball to Anthony across the diamond, and looking over and seeing Addison, and turning two with Ben, it felt cool. It was a special moment for us and for our team and something that we should really hold on to, because it doesn't happen too often."
Left-hander Jon Lester made his fourth All-Star Game appearance when he entered in the seventh. A Corey Seager error allowed the leadoff batter to reach, and Lester then walked Robinson Cano to further complicate matters. He rebounded by retiring two before turning over the inning to Mark Melancon, who escaped without allowing a run.
Jake Arrieta, per his request, did not appear in the game. He told Collins before the game that he would be available if needed but preferred not to pitch, citing a desire to get some rest following a rough patch of starts.
"Being able to throw two side [sessions] before I get back on the mound again is something that I would like to do," Arrieta said. "It's just an opportunity to take the extra day and then get back on the mound."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.