Smith trips, AL falls, 8-7

July 13, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Orioles closer Lee Smith, baseball's all-time saves leader, has 430 career saves, or 430 more than he has in All-Star Games.

Two days after allowing a ninth-inning home run to Mark McGwire for only his fourth blown save in 33 outings, Smith was entrusted with a two-run lead in the ninth inning of last night's 65th All-Star Game at Three Rivers Stadium.

Twenty-eight pitches, one blown save and one game-tying home run later, Smith walked into the dugout still in search of his first All-Star save and the National League went on to break its six-game losing streak with an 8-7, 10-inning win.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Fred McGriff, the least celebrated of baseball's top power hitters, drove a 1-2 fastball from Smith well over the fence in left-center with a man on to send the game into extra innings. McGriff was named MVP of the game, played before 59,568, the largest crowd to watch a baseball game in Pittsburgh.

The pitch, a low and outside fastball, recalled many of the pitches Smith used to complete his 29 saves during the first half of the season.

"It was exactly where I wanted it, if anything a little outside where I wanted it," Smith said. "He went out and got it. It wasn't in his wheelhouse, but I guess his wheelhouse is all over the place."

It came in the ballpark Smith dreaded pitching in during his days with the St. Louis Cardinals, at which Curtis Wilkerson hit a grand slam off him in 1992. Not Fred McGriff, Curtis Wilkerson.

By comparison, last night's ninth inning wasn't so bad.

Smith also was on the mound the last time the National League prevailed -- in 1987 -- but was the winning pitcher.

With Chicago's Jason Bere on the mound, Montreal's Moises Alou drove in the winning run with a double to left that scored Tony Gwynn from first base. Gwynn slid under the just-late tag of catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who caught shortstop Cal Ripken's on-target relay throw.

Bere took the loss and Philadelphia right-hander Doug Jones earned the win by shutting out the AL in the 10th.

The crowd watched the NL blow leads of 4-1 and 5-4, then watched Smith blow a 7-5 lead in the ninth.

Ken Griffey and Frank Thomas, baseball's two biggest stars of the first half, already had left the game, having gone a combined 4-for-5 with two RBIs, when the AL moved ahead.

With one out, runners on the corners and the NL leading 5-4, the AL had left-handed hitters Scott Cooper, Kenny Lofton and Will Clark due up.

NL manager Jim Fregosi summoned Philadelphia left-hander Danny Jackson to replace John Hudek. Cooper tied the game with a double off the wall in left-center and Lofton broke the tie with a two-run single through the left side of the infield.

The 10th inning might never have arrived had Boston third baseman Cooper not bobbled a ball that should have been a double play.

Smith walked Marquis Grissom to start the ninth. Craig Biggio then hit a grounder that Cooper double-clutched on before throwing to second for the force. A quicker throw would have resulted in a double play and empty bases for McGriff.

"That was the big play, Biggio beating out the double play," said McGriff, who intends to put his MVP trophy in the front of the trophy case at the home he is building in Tampa, Fla.

"It was a fastball away," McGriff said of his game-tying hit off Smith. "He threw the second pitch right by me. In that situation, you're looking for the fastball.

"I was thinking, 'Let it go. Be aggressive,' " he said. "If you get it, you get it. If not, you get ready for Thursday."

He got it, and the NL got the lift it needed.

"As soon as he hit it, the NL bench rose and we were all screaming get out of here, get out of here and it did," Gwynn said. "We wanted this one. We really did."

Atlanta's David Justice added: "With the way guys were jumping up and down in here, you would have thought we'd won the World Series or something. I'm happy for the National League and mostly for some of the guys who have been here a long time and have waited for this. It was a very exciting game, and any time you win in dramatic fashion, it's great."

The game featured the unusual -- Wade Boggs getting called out on strikes in consecutive at-bats. And it featured the ordinary -- Ozzie Smith making an extraordinary play.

The AL would have had more runs in the seventh inning if not for Smith's defensive heroics. He robbed Minnesota's Chuck Knoblauch of a run-scoring single with two on and none out in the inning.

"Hey, that's my trademark," said the Nationals' leading vote-getter. "The opportunity presented itself and I did what I had to do."

What he did was dive to his right to snag the hard shot. The highlight-reel play became more important two innings later.

The game also featured the official end -- please -- to the Mike Mussina/Cito Gaston controversy.

Mussina warmed up in the fourth (he was asked to do so this time) and pitched in the fifth (he was allowed to this time) without allowing a run. He allowed one hit and struck out Barry Bonds.

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