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July 17, 2013

What You Need to Know

The AL Comes Up Aces

by Daniel Rathman

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The All-Star Game Takeaway
The ninth Midsummer Classic played in New York City began with a glimpse at the future of the host club, the Mets, and ended with a tribute to a legendary member of the cross-town Yankees.

Matt Harvey, who somehow retained a good deal of anonymity despite a first half that should have made him the toast of town, tossed two scoreless innings for the National League. But his efforts, and those of every other hurler who toed the rubber for senior circuit, were in vain. By the time Mariano Rivera got the ball in the top of the eighth, the American League was up, 3-0. And neither Rivera nor Joe Nathan—the top two closers on the active saves leaderboard with 638 and 328, respectively—gave Bruce Bochy’s squad an opening to climb back in the final two frames.

Rivera faced three batters in his 14th and final trip to the All-Star Game, and he retired all of them, sandwiching an Allen Craig lineout between groundouts by the Brewers’ two All-Stars, Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez. With the clean, 16-pitch appearance, the 43-year-old Rivera left behind a near-flawless Midsummer Classic legacy: nine innings, one unearned run, five hits, no walks, five strikeouts, and this year’s Most Valuable Player award. While some questioned Jim Leyland’s risk-averse decision to have Rivera earn a hold in the eighth rather than a save in the ninth—lest the National League tee off against Nathan, Glen Perkins, or Steve Delabar—Rivera, gracious as always, praised the Tigers skipper for assuring him of a trip to the mound.

FOX color broadcaster Tim McCarver, for whom Wednesday also marked the end of an era, put his stamp on the contest by reciting the lyrics to the immortal entrance song used by the closer with whom he will leave the game.

The Deadspin link above takes you to a video clip in which Timothy Burke combined McCarver’s spoken-word Metallica rendition with another of the night’s most entertaining moments. Prince Fielder led off the top of the ninth inning with a triple that skidded past Gomez in right field, motoring around the bases for his first three-bagger since May 31, 2012. Fielder would not score, but the American League’s three-run advantage was plenty of cushion for Nathan, who notched two strikeouts while shutting the door.

Leyland’s bunch went down quietly in the second and third innings after a first-inning scare—for Harvey, who had to navigate through a two-on, no-out jam, and for the Yankees, whose most valuable position player, Robinson Cano, took a fastball from the Mets flamethrower off what appeared to be the side of the knee. X-rays showed only a quadriceps contusion for Cano, and Harvey escaped unscathed.

Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin, who took the loss, was not so fortunate. Miguel Cabrera greeted him with a double to begin the fourth, advanced to third on a single by Chris Davis, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Bautista. David Ortiz hit into an inning-ending double play, one of four turned by the home team, but that run was all the American League would need.

It was not, however, all that the American League would get. The top of the fifth, pitched by Cliff Lee, began much like the top of the fourth—with a leadoff double, this time by Adam Jones. The Orioles’ center fielder moved to third on a single by Joe Mauer and scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of teammate J.J. Hardy.

The American League closed out the scoring with a superfluous insurance run in the top of the eighth, notching three hits off of Craig Kimbrel, who last permitted that many in a game on April 24. Salvador Perez and Jhonny Peralta began the frame with singles, and while a 6-3 twin killing induced from pinch-hitter Torii Hunter nearly got the Braves’ closer out of the inning, Jason Kipnis had no intention of letting that happen. The Indians’ second baseman, a .329/.413/.581 hitter since April 29, roped a double to left to bring home Perez with the game’s third run.

Bochy’s bats scuffled from beginning to end, notching only three hits—singles by Carlos Beltran and David Wright to go with a double by Paul Goldschmidt—and a walk while striking out eight times. American League starter Max Scherzer worked a clean first, and Chris Sale followed suit in the second and third, earning the win at the official scorer’s discretion.

The 3-0 blanking marked just the third time in All-Star Game history that the National League had been held scoreless; the others were a 12-0 rout at Fenway Park in 1946 and a 2-0 contest at Wrigley Field in 1990. The American League halted a three-year National League winning streak and exacted revenge for last year’s 8-0 drubbing at Kauffman Stadium, earning home-field advantage for the winner of its pennant.

As might be expected of a contest in which only three players crossed the plate, the men on the mound stole the show. Starters Felix Hernandez, Matt Moore, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Fernandez joined Scherzer, Sale, and Harvey in tossing zeros onto the Citi Field scoreboard. All of them, along with relievers Greg Holland, Brett Cecil, Delabar, and Aroldis Chapman, are on the right side of 30. As the old guard, led by Rivera, departs, there is a tide of young hurlers ready to capture the spotlight in the All-Star Games of the future.

WYNTK will return on Friday with a preview of the weekend’s games. It will resume its regular schedule on Monday.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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