AL hits Rocky Mountain high Its 19 hits tie record as AL airs it out in Denver for 13-8 win

O's Alomar named MVP

21 combined runs set All-Star record

July 08, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- The 69th All-Star Game figured to be an offensive showcase, and anything less would have been a fraudulent advertisement for hitter-friendly Coors Field. But did baseball's midseason festival have to turn into a circus?

Maybe it was the thin air. Maybe it was the thin pitching. Maybe it was a combination of all the factors that have turned 1998 into the year of the big hitter that turned the All-Star Game into the biggest offensive free-for-all in the history of the event.

The American League scored in each of the last six innings on the way to a 13-8 victory over the National League that featured so many offensive highlights that there isn't room to list them all.

It was the highest-scoring All-Star Game. The 31 hits tied a record, as did the 19 by the AL. It also was the longest, which probably didn't sit well with major-league time czar Frank Robinson, who participated in the first-ball ceremony.

And, get this, it was a huge showcase for the three All-Stars from Baltimore, who temporarily escaped a dismal regular season to play a major role in the American League's record performance.

Second baseman Roberto Alomar had three hits, two runs and a stolen base to win the game's Most Valuable Player trophy. Cal Ripken had the two-run double that started the onslaught. Rafael Palmeiro got into the game late, but still managed to squeeze in two hits and an RBI.

Well, nobody came to the Mile High City expecting to see a low-scoring game.

For a short while, it looked as if it might be a pitched battle, but not for long. The game remained scoreless into the third inning, but quickly degenerated into the kind of offensive mardi gras that has made Denver a hitter's paradise.

National League starter Greg Maddux flirted with trouble in the first inning, allowing a leadoff single to Kenny Lofton and a bunt single to Roberto Alomar to bring up the heart of the American League batting order, but he quickly showed why he is one of the most difficult pitchers of his generation.

He got Ken Griffey to foul out and retired major-league RBI leader Juan Gonzalez on a broken-bat comebacker before walking Jim Thome to load the bases and striking out Alex Rodriguez to end the threat.

Maddux would go on to pitch two scoreless innings, but not as impressively as AL starter David Wells, who retired the side in order in the first inning and allowed just a walk in the second.

Just when it was beginning to look like the ultimate hitters ballpark was going to be a bust, the National League broke through with two runs off Toronto Blue Jays ace Roger Clemens in the third and the game quickly turned into a non-stop hit parade.

Future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn broke the scoreless tie with a bases-loaded bouncer that glanced off the glove of Alomar for a two-run single. That brought Clemens face-to-face with Mark McGwire in a potential game-breaking situation, but Clemens managed to escape further harm.

McGwire struck out and Barry Bonds hit a slicing fly ball that came dangerously close to the left-field fence.

"It was exciting to face Big Mac, especially when there are runners on base because you can feel the electricity in the stadium," said Clemens. "I was lucky enough to get a couple of PTC pitches by him, but Bonds' pop out went to the warning track. I was a bit nervous there for a moment."

The lead was short-lived. The American League jumped all over Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine in the top of the fourth, opening the inning with four straight hits -- all of which would turn into runs.

Alex Rodriguez and catcher Ivan Rodriguez opened the inning with back-to-back singles and Cal Ripken sliced a fly ball into the right-field corner that came within a few feet of leaving the ballpark for his second career All-Star home run. The ball glanced off the wall just below the yellow home run stripe for a double that brought home two runs and tied the game.

Glavine would go on to give up an infield single and a walk to load the bases, then walked Griffey to force in a run and bring an end to another disappointing All-Star appearance. The Braves left-hander has pitched four times in the midseason classic and has given up four runs in an inning on two occasions.

He was the starting pitcher in the 1992 All-Star Game in San Diego and gave up four runs in the first inning of a wild 13-6 loss to the American League.

This time, however, he would be saved the indignity of personal defeat. The National League got a run back in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Walt Weiss and took the lead in the fifth on the mammoth three-run homer by Bonds, which -- coincidentally enough -- struck the San Francisco Giants banner draped beneath the upper deck in right field.

It was the second home run of the inning. Alex Rodriguez had opened the fifth with a shot into the bullpen behind right-center field for his first All-Star home run in three appearances.

The offensive bonanza continued in the sixth. The American League scored three runs -- two of them on pitches that slipped past NL catcher Javy Lopez at just the wrong time. He was charged with a passed ball to allow Alomar to score and a wild pitch brought home Griffey. Ivan Rodriguez got the final run of the inning honestly, driving home Thome with his third hit of the game.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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