MVP Young caps AL's two-out rally in ninth inning with two-run triple

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, playing for the American League team, tagged out Washington's Alfonso Soriano at the plate during the third inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday. (Associated Press)

The National League fell to 0-9-1 in All-Star games over the last decade.

PITTSBURGH -- No matter who's on the mound, the National League can't find a way to close out an All-Star game.

With the American League down to its final strike, Michael Young hit a two-run triple off Trevor Hoffman for a 3-2 victory Tuesday night that kept the AL unbeaten for the past decade.

Behind David Wright's home run and some daring, old-style baserunning at picturesque PNC Park, the NL took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and brought in Hoffman to try to finish it.

But the San Diego Padres' reliever, closing in on the career saves record, failed to put this one away. He gave up a two-out single to Paul Konerko, who was replaced by pinch-runner Jose Lopez.

Then the NL nearly caught a break -- it hasn't had many since its last victory in Philadelphia in 1996.

Troy Glaus' smash bounded over the left-field fence for a ground-rule double, perhaps preventing Lopez from scoring. He was held at third, but Young made that moot.

The Rangers shortstop lined an 0-2 pitch into right-center and slid into third with what was probably the biggest All-Star game hit since Texas teammate Hank Blalock's go-ahead homer off Eric Gagne in the eighth inning in 2003.

Young took home the MVP award -- and the AL won the home-field edge in the World Series for the fourth straight year, with some help from Vladimir Guerrero's early home run.

"I'm not going to lie. This is a pretty big highlight in my career," Young said. "No one's really giving huge rallying calls to getting home-field advantage in the World Series, but we're all aware of how important this game is."

Said Glaus: "Nobody wants to make the last out of anything, whether it's a regular-season, World Series or an All-Star game."

Mariano Rivera worked around Lopez's error at third base in the bottom half for his third All-Star save, tying Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for the career mark since the stat became official in 1969.

Old reliable for the New York Yankees, Rivera retired Milwaukee slugger Carlos Lee on a popup with a runner on second to end it -- making the AL 9-0-1 in this summer showcase over the past 10 years.

The NL's best result was a tie in 2002 in Milwaukee.

In fact, the AL has dominated year-round lately, sweeping the last two World Series and winning a whopping 61 percent of interleague games this season.

This one, an exhibition played with a crisp, competitive feel, was halted before the fifth inning for a ceremony at home plate for a tribute to the late Pirates great Roberto Clemente.

Bud Selig presented the commissioner's historic achievement award to Clemente's widow, Vera, who was escorted to the podium by Pirates Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski.

AL manager Ozzie Guillen, wearing a Clemente T-shirt under his gray Chicago White Sox road jersey, appeared to wipe tears from his eyes, and highlights of Clemente's stellar career were shown on the video board high above left field.

The Hall of Fame right fielder was killed in a plane crash while delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year's Eve 1972.

"Roberto was a hero in every sense of the term," Selig said.

With several National Leaguers admittedly tired of losing, they certainly came out to play.

Houston manager Phil Garner smartly worked his pitcher-batter matchups -- as he said he would -- and the NL employed a drastic overshift against Boston slugger David Ortiz.

The AL's 41-year-old starting pitcher, Kenny Rogers of Detroit, made a hard dive for Chase Utley's infield single in the second.

NL starter Brad Penny of the Los Angeles Dodgers said Monday his nerves would be "flowing," and maybe that helped him at the outset.

Popping the mitt of Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca -- the two were traded for each other nearly two years ago -- Penny struck out Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and Ortiz in succession with a series of 98 mph fastballs.

The last pitcher to start an All-Star game with three straight Ks was Boston's Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park in 1999, when he set down former MVPs Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa.

For Penny, the relentless high heat showed everybody that he's all the way back from a nerve injury in his right biceps sustained in August 2004.

Guerrero hit his first All-Star homer in the second off Penny, over the short porch in right field.

Wright, who hit 16 homers in the first round of the Home Run Derby before losing to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in the finals Monday night, connected in the bottom half against Rogers.

"I got a lot of practice last night," Wright said. "After practice last night, I got a pitch to handle and I felt real comfortable."

Alfonso Soriano and Beltran each had a stolen base in the third against strong-armed catcher Ivan Rodriguez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner and 13-time All-Star.

Soriano was on second when Beltran singled, but Toronto's Gold Glove center fielder, Vernon Wells, cut down the speedy Soriano with a perfect throw to the plate.

Beltran reached second on the throw and stole third with two outs -- with Albert Pujols at the plate. The Mets' center fielder then scored on a wild pitch by Halladay that glanced off Rodriguez.

"I've had Carlos before and I know he's got exceptional timing on his base stealing," Garner said. "He's got an uncanny knack of picking the right pitch to go."

Cameras flashed for hometown favorite Jason Bay, who singled to start the fourth. The crowd roared when Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez made a leaping catch at shortstop to end the top of the fifth.

Some players and umpires wore yellow wristbands with the initials RCW foz Roberto Clemente Walker. Even pitchers were allowed to wear them, on their glove hands.

Notes: Chuck Tanner, who managed Garner and the Pirates to their most recent World Series title in 1979, threw out the first pitch. ... Wright became the 13th player to homer in his first All-Star game at-bat. ... Pujols made a barehand play at 1B on a tricky hop.

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