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All-Stars set record for stolen bases

All-Stars set record for stolen bases

NEW YORK -- It was only fitting that at least one All-Star Game record would be set in the final Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium. And while it may not have been the most glamorous of marks, the All-Star teams obliged, nonetheless.

"You play that many innings, a few records are bound to fall, right?" Texas' Ian Kinsler said afterward.

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What's funny is this record didn't even need the extra six frames in the American League's eventual 4-3 win over the National League on Tuesday.

When Cleveland's Grady Sizemore stole second in the eighth inning Tuesday, it marked the sixth stolen base of the game, besting the previous All-Star record of five set in 1998. There would be one more before the game ended, setting the new record at seven.

But it was hard to tell how much of a benefit the running strategy actually was for AL manager Terry Francona.

Before examining that, though, let's take a look at the broader picture.

Six of Tuesday night's stolen bases were swiped by the AL club, a feat that will go down as an All-Star Game best.

Additionally, with Texas' Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton and Kinsler accounting for three of those seven swipes, the Rangers earned the distinction of being the first team in Major League history to have three different players record a stolen base in an All-Star Game.

Cognizant of the fact that NL catchers Geovany Soto and Russell Martin are known for their bats and not for their arms, Francona didn't hesitate to put the steal sign on early and often.

Consider that the Cubs' Soto came in having thrown out just 15-of-58 runners this season, while Martin's 21.3 caught-stealing percentage is worst among all NL catchers who have started at least 50 games. The stats obviously worked in Francona's favor, as did the ensuing results.

In four of the first six innings, Francona sent runners from first with one out. All four -- Derek Jeter, Bradley, Kinsler and Hamilton -- would slide into second safely.

"They've got a few guys with some speed and they took advantage of it," Martin said afterward.

Though the strategy worked out as well as it could be have been drawn up, the AL was unable to capitalize on the run-scoring opportunities. Those first four stolen bases gave the AL eight opportunities with a runner in scoring position. The team would go 0-for-8.

It was finally in the eighth that those stolen bases started changing the complexion of the game.

In the top of the inning, Houston's Miguel Tejada took off toward second with one out. The attempt led to an errant throw by Rays catcher Dioner Navarro that went into the outfield and allowed Tejada to move over to third. The Astros shortstop would then score on a sacrifice fly to give the NL a short-lived lead, 3-2.

In the bottom half of the inning, the AL would finally capitalize on one of their own. After a two-out single by Sizemore extended the inning, the Cleveland outfielder swiped second. It put him in position to then trot home and tie the game on Evan Longoria's ground-rule double into the left-field corner.

The propensity to run, however, ran the AL right out of an opportunity to win the game in the 11th, which would have been about an hour before they actually did.

After leading off the inning with a single, Kinsler was once again given the green light to go. This time, however, he'd be the only one of the AL's five runners that attempted to steal against Martin to be gunned down.

Martin may, however, have been fortunate, as replays showed that Kinsler appeared to get his foot in before the tag.

Kinsler's teammates followed with two more hits and a walk in the inning, which would have been ample production to drive the Rangers second baseman home as the game's winning run.

While ultimately not playing a role in the game-winning run, the running game added a unique and not often emphasized dimension to a game that had many to offer.

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

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