LOS ANGELES — If you considered the All-Star Game to be the national coming-out party for Julio Rodriguez’s mega-stardom, most of the heavy lifting was done Monday in the Home Run Derby.

“After that, everyone knows who Julio is,’’ said teammate Ty France.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez was quiet, or at least as quiet as a fun-loving, effervescent 21-year-old can be in the American League’s 3-2 win, going 0 for 2 yet still managing to charm the national television audience.

If you viewed the game as an opportunity to showcase the too-little-recognized skills of France, well, it didn’t quite work out according to plan. The last player selected to the game and the last non-pitcher inserted into it, France struck out in his only appearance, yet still headed back to Seattle with the giddy countenance of someone who just had a lifetime dream fulfilled — in his hometown, no less.


And if you regarded the Mid-Summer Classic as an annoying interruption of the Mariners’ win-a-day stampede through the American League, well, I’ve got good news. The game is over, a perfunctory American League victory at Dodger Stadium fueled by Giancarlo Stanton’s two-run home run. Because the AL always wins — nine in a row, and 21 of the last 24. How does such dominance happen?

“We’re just better, I think,’’ deadpanned White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks, who had a starring role in a little J-Rod comedy act in the eighth inning. “No, I just think in games like this, it’s all a matter of kind of luck. Everyone on that field is amazing at their job. They’re the best of the best, and I think the American League has managed to pull out a couple of timely swings at the right time.”


And now, more to the point, only two days remain before the M’s host the division-leading Houston Astros, led by American League manager Dusty Baker, and find out if the All-Star break was a momentum-killer.

Oh, and Seattle is now on the clock. The next time the All-Star Game is held, it will be next July at T-Mobile Park, with the Mariners as the host team for the first time since 2001. It seems vaguely possible that 2001 was the last time something else happened, but we won’t get into that here, except to say that the Mariners’ single-minded mission in the second half will be to end that storyline once and for all.

Baker said Monday he had never actually seen his American League starter, Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan, pitch. And in the first inning, he might have wondered what the fuss was about. McClanahan was battered for four hits from the first five hitters, including Paul Goldschmidt’s home run. And the lone outs in that span was a torrid grounder by Manny Machado speared by second baseman Andres Gimenez and turned into the sweetest double play you’ll ever see, compete with a behind-the-back flip to second base. The NL would get one more hit all night.

Many had wanted Baker to go for the spectacle of Shohei Ohtani as the starting pitcher opposing Clayton Kershaw, but he indicated Ohtani’s camp nixed the idea. But you’ve got to love the All-Star attitude of Ohtani, who moments before heading to the plate to start the game said in a television interview (in English) that what he was looking forward to Tuesday was “First pitch. First swing. That’s it.” Then Ohtani indeed swung at the first pitch, lined a single to center off — and was promptly picked off first base by Kershaw. Later, Ohtani confirmed he was going to swing at the first pitch no matter where it was. The pickoff was not part of the script, however.

For sentimentalists, there were the final All-Star Game appearances of Albert Pujols (21 years and nine days after his first one, a walk off the Mariners’ Jeff Nelson) and Miguel Cabrera. For techno-nerds, there was Toronto pitcher Alek Manoah mic’d up on the mound while pitching in the All-Star Game. I haven’t done all the research, but I’m pretty sure Bob Feller never did that. As an added bonus, Hall of Famer John Smoltz was feeding him advice on pitch selection — apparently to good effect, because Manoah struck out the side around a hit batsman.

Later in the game, Hendriks was also mic’d up and had a humorous exchange with Rodriguez, who caught the third out in center and feigned tossing the ball into the stands. Hendriks screamed at him not to do so because he wanted the ball as a souvenir, which the laughing Rodriguez eventually tossed Hendriks’ way.


“I was just messing with him,’’ said Rodriguez, who heard Hendriks’ pleas only because he, too, was mic’d up.

Entering the game in the fifth inning in place of starting center fielder Byron Buxton, Rodriguez had two at-bats, both of which were as non-eventful as Monday’s were filled with electricity. He grounded out to second and flied out routinely to right — yet still left for Seattle as the breakout star of baseball. He is not only winning over fans, but peers such as Buxton, who delivered what turned out to be the game-winning hit, a fourth-inning homer that immediately followed Stanton’s.

“Everything. Everything,’’ said Buxton, when asked what stood out to him about Rodriguez. “I told him earlier, I like to watch you all the time. He’s my favorite player now. Everything he does is so easy. He’s so much fun to watch. Simple as that. He’s going to be here for a long time — as long as he wants to be. I’m hoping I’m here with him.”

Now that Rodriguez has been stamped as an emerging superstar, it was pointed out to him, the expectations have been raised commensurately. Not a problem, he replied.

“I don’t worry about expectations. No matter how high the expectations go, they’ll never be higher than my own.”

France, meanwhile, had to wait almost the entirety of the game before stepping up to the plate in the eighth as a pinch-hitter. He flailed at a nasty slider from the Cardinals’ Ryan Helsley, who also pumped up a couple pitches at 103 mph.


Yet that didn’t dampen France’s upbeat mood as he channeled the “good vibes only” philosophy of Mariners teammate Eugenio Suarez.

“It was an incredible experience, and I’m very grateful to be here,’’ said France. “I didn’t really know what to expect coming in. It happened so fast — and it ended really quick, too.”

The silver lining? Now the Mariners can try for consecutive win No. 15. And for their two All-Stars, it was just another in a long line of victories.