AL unbeatable again

Down to last strike, team wins on Young's 2-run triple

American League 3 National League 2

All-Star Game

July 12, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

PITTSBURGH -- Start the 77th Major League Baseball All-Star Game with the obvious, the uncontested, the darn-near guaranteed.

The American League is a world better than the National League these days. And baseball is now all about offense - consider the past four All-Star games have averaged a total of 13 runs.

Then let them play the game.

And watch as baseball again throws convention a curve.

What should have been a slugfest with the AL coming out victorious turned into a low-scoring pitchers' duel.

Ultimately, though, the AL squeaked by with a two-run, ninth-inning comeback to win, 3-2, and preserve their 10-game All-Star unbeaten streak.

So, technically, the AL's dominance continues and it will have home-field advantage in the World Series for the fifth consecutive year.

But make this one dominance with an asterisk, because the National League was one out away from ending its skid.

Leading 2-1 in the ninth, San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman got two quick comebackers to the mound, the second off the bat of Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada in his only at-bat of the night.

With two outs, Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko singled and the Toronto Blue Jays' Troy Glaus followed with a ground-rule double to right to move pinch runner Jose Lopez to third.

Texas Rangers shortstop Michael Young, the game's Most Valuable Player, followed with a triple to right-center to drive in two and give the AL a one-run lead.

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera entered in the bottom of the ninth and - despite an error by Lopez at third - picked up the save, his third in All-Star competition, tying Dennis Eckersley for the most all-time.

Former Oriole and current Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan got the win with a scoreless eighth.

Just another routine victory for the AL and another loss for the NL, which also has dropped 10 of the past 14 World Series.

The National League took the lead in the third - and nearly scored twice.

Washington Nationals left fielder Alfonso Soriano started the inning with a single off Toronto's Roy Halladay. Soriano then stole second and attempted to score on a single to center by New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran.

But Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells threw a perfect, one- hop strike to AL catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who blocked the plate and simultaneously tagged Soriano's hand for the out.

The NL still took the 2-1 lead, though, after Beltran, who had moved to second on Wells' throw, stole third and scored on a Halladay wild pitch.

The teams then exchanged zeroes for several innings.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero gave the American League the early lead on a pitch that never should have been touched by lumber.

On a 1-1 count in the second inning, NL starter Brad Penny tried to sneak a 98-mph, eye-high fastball past Guerrero. The pitch was so high, NL catcher Paul Lo Duca stood up.

But Guerrero, a notorious bad-ball hitter, crushed the pitch into the right-field stands for a 1-0 lead. It was the only hit allowed by Penny, who struck out the side in the first inning. The mighty AL offense didn't get a runner to second in the next five innings.

The National League tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the second, when Mets third baseman David Wright lined Kenny Rogers' breaking ball over the left-field wall. It was the first pitch the 23-year-old Wright had seen as an All-Star. He became the 13th player in the game's history to homer in his first All-Star at-bat.

It was the only run allowed in two innings by Detroit's Rogers.

Rogers allowed three hits in two innings, but only Wright scored. During introductions he was primarily cheered, with only a smattering of boos from the NL-partisan crowd.

The biggest reaction of the night came in between the fourth and fifth innings, when baseball commissioner Bud Selig presented the 10th annual Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award to the widow of Roberto Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder and Pirates legend who died in a plane crash in 1972.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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