In the longest All-Star Game in history, Michael Young's sacrifice fly delivered the final blow, allowing the AL to defeat the NL in 15 innings, 4-3, on Tuesday. In the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, it was a memorable finish to perhaps the final national event on the storied Bronx stage.
The final twist took hold with the Phillies' Brad Lidge on to work the 15th. Justin Morneau slid home after Young's fly ball to right, with Corey Hart's throw home arriving just a touch too late.
"I would have loved to have seen that game wrapped up a little earlier, but we battled and I think it's fitting in Yankee Stadium -- a place where something unpredictable always seems to happen," Young said.
"At that point, the legs aren't exactly feeling great, but I had just enough in the tank," Morneau said.
Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir pitched a scoreless top half in relief, logging his first All-Star victory with three outs of work. Kazmir did not expect to even see action in the contest, but as the night grew toward its four-hour, 50-minute conclusion, the bullpen members thinned out.
"Once I was there by myself, it was a little nerve-racking," Kazmir said. "There's no telling. I was good to go out for another one, that's for sure."
It wasn't needed, as the American League extended its unbeaten streak to a record 12 games, improving to 11-0-1 since the National League's last victory in 1996 at Philadelphia. The decision secures the American League's home-field advantage in the World Series, the sixth consecutive year since Major League Baseball began using the All-Star Game to decide placement of the Fall Classic.
|"It seemed like the Stadium didn't want it to end. That's what we were talking about. It just wanted baseball to continue. I thought it was fitting."|
|-- Derek Jeter|
Before Tuesday's game, AL manager Terry Francona had recognized the magnitude of the contest, saying, "Something will happen in this game that people will probably talk about for a long time."
Yet Francona probably didn't count on how many things could happen -- or how much time would elapse. The two teams combined for 27 hits (14 by the AL, 13 by the NL) and left an All-Star Game record 28 runners on base.
With all 63 available players seeing action, All-Star Game MVP J.D. Drew might have taken the mound for the AL had the game gone later; David Wright was next in line for the NL.
"It seemed like the Stadium didn't want it to end," said Derek Jeter, one of three Yankees representing the AL. "That's what we were talking about. It just wanted baseball to continue. I thought it was fitting. I wish, honestly, it would have ended earlier, but we won and it was a great game to watch and be a part of."
"I thought I was going to have a day off; it didn't turn out that way," said NL manager Clint Hurdle. "I was doing Chinese arithmetic from the sixth inning on. I felt like I was in Algebra class. It got wild."
The thrilling conclusion couldn't have come without the gifted right hand of Mariano Rivera -- it was where the final All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium belonged, where Francona wanted it, and almost as importantly, where the thousands filling the grandstands demanded it be.
"When the game was tied, I knew I was pitching, regardless," Rivera said. "Yankee Stadium is tough. It was tough, I'm telling you. It didn't want the game to end, but it finally gave it up to us."
The career Yankee entered a tie game with one out in the ninth to the strains of "Enter Sandman," satisfying the wishes of most of the crowd of 55,632. Rivera's work in the ninth was typically efficient, but he needed the help of his infield in the 10th, deftly scoring a 4-6-3 double play on a Dan Uggla chopper to preserve the tie.
Kansas City's Joakim Soria recorded five outs that would prove just as important, and Baltimore's George Sherrill also logged seven outs -- including pinning the bases loaded in the 12th, a performance that Francona raved about later.
"For him to do what he did with the enthusiasm, he wasn't coming out of that game," Francona said. "He didn't want to come out. And the way he pitched, he didn't deserve to come out."
Uggla's remarkable troubles will be remembered as a footnote of the AL's 10th-inning near-miss. With Aaron Cook on in relief for the first of three dangerous innings, Young reached when a bouncer hit the Florida second baseman's glove and trickled away, and Carlos Quentin shot a hard liner through Uggla's legs for a second error.
"My reputation is what it is -- one night is not going to change it," Uggla said. "It doesn't change the way I go about my game play. Someone else might want to say something about it, but I know what kind of player I am."
After an intentional walk, Grady Sizemore and Evan Longoria both bounced out, and Cook got Morneau to ground out on a tantalizingly slow-hit ball. Nate McLouth's strong one-hop throw home on Young's 11th-inning single nailed Dioner Navarro and allowed the game to proceed deeper into the New York night, once again helping Cook evade trouble.
"They just kept getting ground ball after ground ball," Young said. "A lot of it is because they went out and did a great job, so you have to give them some credit. We were fighting hard to get that thing wrapped up, but it happened to take a little longer."
Matt Holliday belted a solo homer and Drew hit a two-run shot in the contest, and rookie Longoria came through with a clutch ground-rule double in the eighth, taking Jonathan Papelbon off the hook. With a full house chanting Rivera's name, his Boston closing counterpart permitted a go-ahead run in the eighth, further lowering his New York popularity rating.
Miguel Tejada opened the eighth with a soft single to right, drawing boos. After a strikeout, Tejada stole second and moved to third on Navarro's throwing error, setting up Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly to left field, briefly giving the National League the one-run advantage.
The AL wasn't finished, evening the game in the bottom half against the Mets' Billy Wagner. Sizemore rapped a two-out single to right and stole second base before Longoria stroked a ground-rule double over the left-field wall, tying the game at 3.
Holliday opened the scoring in the fifth, logging his first All-Star Game hit by reaching the Angels' Ervin Santana with his home run to right field. The NL added a run in the sixth on Justin Duchscherer, as Hanley Ramirez opened with a hit and moved to third on a single before Lance Berkman got the run home with a sacrifice fly.
Trailing, 2-0, the AL evened the contest in the seventh, facing Edinson Volquez in his All-Star Game debut. Morneau opened with a double to center and moved up on a groundout. After a strikeout, Drew cracked his two-run homer in his first All-Star Game at-bat, tying the game en route to securing the game's MVP award.
"I've always had confidence in [my] ability," Drew said. "It just took me a little while to put it together last year and get some experience in the American League. Like I've said all season, I felt like I had a really nice September and took it into the playoffs, and just wanted to bring it to this season.
"It's been a nice little run. We still got a long ways to go, but this is definitely a good night."
Appropriate for the festivities, Jeter -- one of three representing the Yankees -- found himself in a relatively big spot. The AL moved two runners on base against Arizona's Dan Haren, with Joe Mauer singling off the pitcher's glove and Dustin Pedroia working a walk.
Ichiro fanned for the second out, but Jeter -- with cameras flickering throughout the stands -- tapped back to the mound. Jeter earlier singled and stole a base, exiting in the top of the fifth 1-for-3 and receiving a loud ovation. Alex Rodriguez, the Majors' leading vote-getter, finished 0-for-2.
Both starting pitchers worked two innings, striking out three, as neither factored in the decision. The Indians' Cliff Lee allowed a hit, striking out three, and the Brewers' Ben Sheets also allowed a hit, walking two.
It was a Midsummer Classic -- in every sense of the phrase -- taking place in a building best known for its immaculate stage.
It was the House that Ruth Built, where Lou Gehrig proclaimed himself the luckiest man, where Joe DiMaggio jolted and where Mickey Mantle became an idol to millions. It was where Don Larsen was perfect, where Roger Maris toppled the Babe and where Reggie Jackson forever acquired October with just three swings.
Major League Baseball's pregame on-field ceremony featured what was believed to be history's largest gathering of stars. Forty-nine Hall of Famers took part, spilling out of a red-curtained gateway and walking to their former positions, each wearing dark jackets and the caps of the franchise where they made their greatest marks toward Cooperstown.
They were joined by the starters from both leagues; today's best players meeting the living legends. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner personally delivered the first-pitch ball to the mound, riding from the bullpen via golf cart.
After receiving the handoff from Steinbrenner, who appeared to be crying, the ceremonial pitch was tossed by four Yankees Hall of Famers. Reggie Jackson threw to Rodriguez, Yogi Berra to Joe Girardi, Whitey Ford to Jeter and Goose Gossage to Rivera, as red, white and blue metallic streamers fell upon the outfield.
"Being out on the field with all of the Hall of Famers is something you don't see that often," Jeter said. "I think that's what I'm going to remember most about this All-Star experience at Yankee Stadium, being able to share that."
Tuesday marked the fourth and final time that Yankee Stadium hosted an All-Star Game, with Midsummer Classics also having been held in 1939, 1960 and 1977.
It was the first time that a ballpark hosted an All-Star Game in its final year and the eighth All-Star Game to be held in New York; the Polo Grounds hosted the event in 1934 and 1942, Ebbets Field in 1949 and Shea Stadium in 1964. The 2009 All-Star Game is set to be held at St. Louis' Busch Stadium.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.