PITTSBURGH -- One pitch and a final out stood between the National League breaking its decade-long streak of futility in the All-Star Game. And with Trevor Hoffman on the mound, that one strike stood between Michael Young going home content and going home as MVP.
Young came up big in the ninth inning on Tuesday night at PNC Park, drilling the two-strike pitch into the gap in right-center for the two-run triple that won the game for the AL, 3-2. Mariano Rivera did what Hoffman couldn't do: shut down the NL in the ninth. And minutes later, Young was on the field accepting the Ted Williams MVP trophy from Commissioner Bud Selig, not to mention the keys to a Chevy truck.
"I'm not going to lie," said Young, the Texas Ranger shortstop. "This is a pretty big highlight in my baseball career. I think everyone dreams of having a big All-Star Game. Even coming to the All-Star Game is humbling enough, but to be in this situation now where I have an All-Star Game MVP is pretty exciting. I'm happy about it. I can't wait to get back to my teammates in Texas now."
Young moved from second base and replaced Alex Rodriguez at shortstop when the two-time American League MVP was traded to the New York Yankees before the 2004 season. If you're counting, the All-Star MVP count between then and now is Young 1, A-Rod 0.
Young went into the game at second base in the bottom of the fifth inning and had a 1-for-2 evening. But his final at-bat, coming after Paul Konerko singled and Troy Glaus doubled -- all with two out -- was one for the All-Star ages.
Hoffman quickly had two quick strikes, but Young is hitting .409 with runners in scoring position this season.
"We know the change is his signature pitch but he was throwing some fastballs," Young said. "I was looking fastball first pitch and I fouled it off. I thought he might throw a changeup second pitch and fouled that one off, too. Clearly my thinking was doing me no good, so I was just going to try to see the ball and make some contact."
Hoffman, the Padres' right-handed closer who is 18 shy of Lee Smith's all-time save record of 478, came back with a fastball. Game over and out.
"I have a great deal of respect for that guy, he's about to break the saves record," Young said. "He's a great guy and I do consider myself fortunate to be in that situation in the first place. It's important to give Paul and Troy credit for keeping the inning alive and giving me some at-bats to have a shot there.
"At that point, with the go-ahead run on second base, I know we have a chance to go ahead and bring Mariano in the game. Obviously you like your chances when that happens."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.