Mariano Rivera steals show in last All-Star Game

Mariano Rivera steals show in last All-Star Game
July 16, 2013, 11:30 pm
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Mariano Rivera remained unscored on in nine All-Star Game innings by pitching a 1-2-3 eighth on Tuesday night. (USA Today Images)

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NEW YORK – The 84th All-Star Game was played Tuesday night in New York City, in the borough of Queens.

But the script came straight out of Hollywood.

That much was undeniable as the American League shut out the National League, 3-0, with New York baseball legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of the game, coming out of the bullpen and getting three outs in his final All-Star Game.

The 43-year-old right-hander, a 13-time All-Star who will retire at season’s end, pitched the bottom of the eighth inning and was named the game’s MVP.

Rivera, whose 638 saves are the most ever, jogged onto the field with his familiar entry song, Metallica’s "Enter Sandman," blaring over the stadium loud speakers.

When Rivera reached the mound, he looked around and saw he was the only man on the field. His AL teammates waited in the dugout so Rivera could have the spotlight.

“We came up with that before the game,” AL outfielder Torii Hunter said. “We wanted him to get his due, to have him tip his hat. He’s a great guy. He’s done his job and never complained. We respect him. That’s what you do for a guy like that.”

As flashbulbs popped, Rivera lifted his cap to the crowd of 45,186 -- the largest ever at the ballpark -- and was saluted with a standing ovation. His AL teammates came out in front of the dugout and tipped their caps to him before taking the field.

Rivera was clearly moved by his teammates’ gesture. He did not know it was coming.

“The whole thing was amazing,” he said. “I have no words for it. It’s been a wonderful night. The only thing that will top this is the World Series.”

It was an All-Star sendoff reminiscent of the one Cal Ripken Jr. received in Seattle in 2001. In that game, Alex Rodriguez, the AL shortstop, moved to third base before the game’s first pitch so Ripken could get one more moment at shortstop, his original position in the major leagues.

Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, threw 16 pitches, and got the hold. The save went to Joe Nathan. AL manager Jim Leyland went to Rivera in the eighth because he didn’t want to risk the NL rallying against a different pitcher in the inning and eliminating the need for the bottom of the ninth inning.

It turned out to be a memorable moment for everyone.

With the victory, the AL gained home-field advantage in the World Series, no small matter considering the team with home-field advantage has won 25 of 32 World Series since 1980.

It was not a particularly good night for the Phillies’ representatives. Not only were Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee on the losing side, but neither performed well. Lee pitched an inning and gave up two hits and a run. Down 2-0 with a man on base in the seventh inning, Brown struck out on three pitches against Toronto lefty Brett Cecil (see story).

In the top of the eighth inning, with two outs, Brown appeared to misplay a ball off the bat of Jason Kipnis and it went for an RBI double.

Matt Harvey was the no-brainer starting pitcher in this game. The 24-year-old right-hander earned the assignment by going 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA and an NL-best 147 strikeouts before the break. While performance was the primary reason for Harvey’s selection as starter, there was an understandable sentimental reason: The All-Star Game was back at the home of the New York Mets for the first time since Johnny Callison won it for the NL in 1964. Harvey, of course, is the Golden Boy of the Mets and their future.

“People who haven’t seen him yet are going to see something pretty special,” Mets manager Terry Collins, a member of the NL coaching staff, said on Monday.

Harvey, who can heat his fastball up to triple digits, had some jitters early. Mike Trout, the pride of Millville, N.J., hit the first pitch of the game, a 97-mph heater, down the right-field line for a double. Harvey then plunked Robinson Cano of the cross-city Yankees on the right quadriceps muscle with a 96-mph fastball. Harvey settled down and got out of the inning on two strikeouts and a fly ball.

Cano was able to take first base after being hit on the right leg, but he left the game shortly after. As he walked across the diamond to the AL dugout, he looked at Harvey, who patted his chest as if to apologize and say, “My bad.” An X-ray on Cano’s leg was negative. Players always go home with a boatload of souvenirs from the All-Star Game. Cano’s souvenir was black and blue.

“Obviously that was the last thing I wanted to do -- to go out there and injure someone,” Harvey said afterward. “I think he understood it wasn’t intentional. I apologize.”

Harvey pitched two innings and allowed just the one hit while striking out three.

Phillies fans know all about Harvey. He has beaten the Phils twice this season, allowing just five hits and one run, while striking out 15 and walking just three in 13 innings. Harvey is scheduled to face the Phillies and Lee on Sunday at Citi Field.

Max Scherzer, the AL starter and 13-game winner from the Detroit Tigers, pitched just one perfect inning and threw 12 pitches.

The AL used 10 pitchers to complete the three-hit shutout.

But the night belonged to one pitcher -- Mariano Rivera.

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