CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Family makes week special for Tribe

Family makes week special for Tribe

SAN FRANCISCO -- On their flight bound for the West Coast, Indians teammates C.C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore were discussing the possibilities that might unfold in Tuesday's All-Star Game, when the subject of Martinez's switch-hitting skill came up.

"I told him," Sabathia recalled, "that if I was a manager, I wouldn't let him bat right-handed, because he never makes outs right-handed. He proved me right."

Did he ever.

More

Martinez's pinch-hit, two-run homer off the Mets' Billy Wagner in the bottom of the seventh inning seemed like unnecessary insurance when it cleared the left-field wall, because it gave the American League a three-run lead. As it turns out, the blast proved to be the defining blow in the Junior Circuit's 5-4 victory at AT&T Park.

"You never know what's going to happen in this game," Martinez said. "At the end, those two runs gave us the win."

But whereas Martinez's home run was the physical highlight of the Indians' involvement in the 78th Midsummer Classic, Sabathia's scoreless fifth inning of work was the emotional one.

Several years back, Sabathia, a native of nearby Vallejo, Calif., had talked with his father, also known as Carsten Charles, about the possibility of one day pitching in this ballpark in an All-Star Game. The elder Sabathia passed away in 2003, but Sabathia took the mound knowing his old man was looking down on him and smiling.

"It gave me goosebumps," Sabathia said. "I wasn't nervous all day until I got out there. Then, I was nervous."

Sabathia didn't show it.

Unlike his previous All-Star appearance at Houston's Minute Maid Park in 2004, when he gave up three runs in an inning of work, Sabathia was quick and efficient in this outing.

Sent in with the AL holding a 2-1 lead, he needed just nine pitches to retire the side, with Jose Reyes' two-out single to center serving as his only miscue. He got Chase Utley to ground out to second, Alfonso Soriano to go down on a hard liner to left and Derrek Lee to hit a grounder back to the mound to end the inning.

"I threw one changeup," Sabathia said with a laugh. "The rest were all fastballs. I was trying to air it out. I got behind everybody, but it was fun."

Just as fun, apparently, was Sabathia's combination All-Star/birthday party a night earlier. Though he doesn't turn 27 until July 21, he had a horde of friends, family and All-Star teammates in attendance at the biggest of birthday bashes in downtown San Francisco. Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford and Johan Santana were among those in attendance.

All-Star Game Coverage

"People were calling me all morning," Sabathia said, "telling me, 'That was the best time of my life!'"

And this week's festivities were arguably the best time of Sabathia's life.

"It was exciting," he said. "I'm glad we won. My family got to see me pitch at home, so I'm excited."

Sabathia's excitement was kicked up another notch when Martinez cranked out the 18th pinch-hit homer in All-Star Game history. Martinez's at-bat followed that of Sizemore, who struck out on three straight pitches from Wagner, one of the game's most feared closers.

"That's not the ideal matchup you're looking for," Sizemore said with a smile. "I just wanted to see something to hit. All of a sudden, I was down 0-2, and I still hadn't seen anything. That's the luck of the draw."

When AL manager Jim Leyland drew Sizemore out of his well of reserves in the bottom of the seventh inning, he placed the Tribe's center fielder in an unusual spot -- right field. And AT&T Park, with its unique right-field dimensions, is a difficult place to play that position.

"I might have played right field in a few Spring Training games a couple years ago, but that's about it," Sizemore said. "There are a lot of nooks and crannies out there. Luckily, I didn't have to deal with them."

Dealt his second All-Star selection and his first since 2004, Martinez wanted his 2-year-old son, Victor Jose, to be along for every part of the ride.

In the clubhouse before the game, young Victor drew plenty of smiles from Martinez's All-Star teammates, as he donned a full Indians road uniform -- helmet included -- while sucking down a bottle of water. When pregame introductions took place on the field, the little guy was in his daddy's arms.

"When I was a kid, I didn't have a chance to be a part of the big leagues," Martinez said. "I was really happy to be here and to share this with my son. That was one of the greatest moments for me."

Of course, his home run was a pretty great moment, too. It came on Wagner's 2-0 pitch, and Martinez, who was pinch-hitting for Santana, never had a doubt where it was headed, once he made contact.

"I hit it pretty good," he said. "I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it. I just feel great that I hit a home run in the All-Star Game and shared the experience with a lot of great players in the game."

Sharing the Midsummer Classic experience with a couple teammates was particularly enjoyable for Martinez, Sabathia and Sizemore. During the game's broadcast, the Tribe trio was seen huddled on the top step of the AL dugout, with Martinez's arms wrapped around his two buddies.

It was an endearing image from an All-Star affair that, between Sabathia's homecoming and Martinez's home run, was a San Francisco treat.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less