KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ryan Braun was back in the spotlight at the All-Star game. And this time, it was for what happened on the field.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger was in the middle of everything early on for the National League, driving in the first run and playing solid defense in an 8-0 victory against the American League on Tuesday night.
Braun, last year’s NL MVP, spent much of the offseason defending himself after testing positive for a banned substance. He got his 50-game suspension overturned in February and has gone back to being one of the best players in the game.
At the All-Star game he showed it.
The NL won its third straight All-Star Game with retired manager Tony La Russa, who led the Cardinals to an improbable World Series title, pulling the strings.
“If you’re trying to win one game, there’s not a better manager out there,” Braun said. “It’s only fitting that he went out with a win.”
Batting third, Braun jump-started a five-run first off Justin Verlander with an RBI double that drove in the first run. He added the NL’s All-Star game-record third triple in a four-run fourth.
He chipped in with a pair of nice defensive plays in left field, too, tracking down Josh Hamilton’s drive at the wall in the first and then snaring a liner by Prince Fielder to end the fourth.
Only Jose Bautista’s sliding catch of a looper to right denied Braun of a third hit.
Braun leads the National League with 24 homers and is among the leaders with 61 RBIs. He skipped the home run derby, saving his cuts for when it counted for his league.
News leaked in January that Braun had tested positive for a banned substance with a urine sample he provided after an Oct. 1 playoff game showing a high level of testosterone. He maintained his innocence, and became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.
Braun’s lone appearance in the home run derby came in 2008 at Yankee Stadium. Braun said he avoided the 2012 contest because it was too much of a pressurized environment.
He ticked off the reasons why not to swing before the game. The setting is unfamiliar, there’s no batting cage, cameras are stationed all over the field and a packed house has its eyes fixed on in anticipation you’ll muscle up on a practice cut.
Braun had said the home run hitting contest was just about as nervous as he’d ever been on a baseball diamond.
At ease in the All-Star game, Braun was at his best.