Thursday, July 17, 2008

Can I Get a Witness: All-Star Game

As promised, Yankee Mike's extensive All-Star Game recap, giving the blow by blow of the live experience. Enjoy.

I was lucky enough to be at the All-Star Game two nights ago, and since it was basically a farewell to Yankee stadium, I was really excited to go. The festivities at the start of the game were really cool to watch and I took the attitude going in that while it would be a wonderful experience, it's an All-Star Game, and I've never really cared about the outcome.
Bud Selig's status: Happy - things are off to a great start.
Boy was I wrong. The first couple of innings went quickly, with the pitchers really dominating, and although the AL managed a few base runners, neither team really threatened to score. In the top of the fourth, Ichiro reminded everyone why he wins the Gold Gloves every year, throwing an absolute strike from the right field corner to nail Albert Pujols, but Holliday homered to make it one to nothing in the fifth and AL ERA leader Justin Duchscherer gave up a sac fly in the sixth to update deficit to two.
Bud Selig's status: Embarrassed - he was on the field for a cancer charity event and they mispronounced his name, and he got booed because New York crowds are fun.
The AL is now building an all too common Yankee Stadium theme: the home team is not scoring any freakin runs. The NL is rolling, looking ready to end their stretch of 12 winless years in the Midsummer Classic, with the NL ERA Leader Edinson Volquez on the mound. JD Drew has other ideas, though: he pulls off the impossible. Not the home run: a standing ovation for a Red Sox player tying a game at Yankee Stadium. The place went nuts when the ball cleared the wall in right and now the crowd is really into the game.
Bud Selig's status: Smiling - the game is good, and the crowd is finally into it.
Papelbon promptly gives the run back in the top of the eighth - every Red Sox used in middle relief or a setup role has struggled this year, why stop now? - (Ed note: Dioner Navarro and a cascade of boos from the "home" crowd helped), but fortunately for the AL, Clint Hurdle called on Billy Wagner to pitch the bottom of the inning. Now, to Hurdle's credit, he let Brian Wilson get the first 2 outs, bringing Wagner in the lowest pressure situation possible. Like clockwork, the bigger game, the more important the stage, the more likely Wagner is to fold like a cheap house of cards. Single, stolen base, double, and seven pitches later we're tied again.
Bud Selig's status: Elated: The game is exciting and Mariano Rivera will probably get to pitch a meaningful inning.
Not only meaningful, but stressful, too: Rivera comes in to the loudest ovation of the night, and promptly picks up a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play. In the tenth, he made things a little more interesting but picks up a 6-4-3 double play, compliments of the Texas middle infield.

The bottom half of the tenth rolls around, and courtesy of a brace of errors by Dan Uggla, resulting in "Hit it to Uggla"and " Uggla MVP" chants, the AL loads the bases with no outs, and the crowd figures ballgame is over...but continuing yet another all too common trend at the stadium this year, the AL fails to get the clutch hit and score the run. Aaron Cook pulls a Houdini act, gets three straight ground balls and escapes, leaving the bases loaded. AL count for runners left on in extra innings: three.

Top of the eleventh goes quick, and the AL puts Kinsler on first, but he's promptly caught stealing. Kinsler thought he was safe, and actually stood on second looking really pissed off; it was nice to see the players getting into it. Navarro walks, Drew singles, Young singles, and the game looks over again, but wait for it: McClouth guns down Navarro at the plate, Christian Guzman makes a great play on a chopper, and the inning is over. AL count for runners left on in extra innings: five. Francona and Hurdle are taking years away from their lives as they stare down into their bullpens, seeing fewer and fewer options.
Bud Selig's status: Smug - his plan of "This one counts" is working beautifully, the players actually look the care and so do the fans.
Now the crowd is really buzzing, this has turned into one hell of a baseball game. The NL loads the bases in the bottom of the twelfth with one out, brings up Dan Uggla with a chance to win it, and he whiffs as a part of his super awesome excellent day. George Sherrill comes in, gets Adrian Gonzalez swinging at strikes three, and...inning over. Sherrill is pumped, the crowd is on its feet going nuts and we are headed for the bottom of the thirteenth.
Bud Selig's status: Slight Concern - it's getting really late on the east coast and both teams are starting to run low on pitchers.
Marmol leaves a guy stranded at second (AL count for runners left on in extra innings is now six), Sherrill racks up another quick inning and we head to the fourteenth inning stretch. Brandon Webb isn't supposed to pitch in this game because he tossed 110 pitches Sunday, but in the fourteenth inning, the rules get tossed out. He makes quick work of the three AL hitters. Sherrill comes out for another inning, goes 3 up 3 down, and goes back to the dugout having pitched 2 1/3 innings. For you Orioles fans, that's the first time he's gone two innings all year. I'm sure the O's front office is thrilled.
Bud Selig's status: About to Light Himself on Fire - the AL has only Kazmir (who pitched on Sunday); the NL has only Lidge (a closer). This game needs to end now or A) he will have to call another tie, or B) managers will have to accept the position players' offer to pitch. Rumor has it that Drew offered to toe the rubber, and Hurdle was looking towards David Wright.
Top of the fifteenth: Kazmir comes in, and the word from the radio guys is he can go 30 pitches tops. He gets the NL to go quietly, and now Lidge comes in. At this point, he's warmed up 6 times. I'm sure the Phillies are thrilled right now, too. After McCann makes an appearance, meaning every available guy on both rosters has appeared in the game. Finally, something happens. Morneau singles, Kinsler gets robbed by Ludwick in left (great diving play), Navarro singles, Drew walks (getting another cheer, and yes, it was weird for me too), followed by a pop up to right field. Hart catches it and comes up firing.

Morneau's foot and the ball gets to the plate at the same time. Umpire calls him safe, the fans still there go nuts, the AL players mob Morneau at home and Michael Young at first, and the AL walks off what was one of the most exciting games I have ever seen.
Bud Selig's status: Almost Catatonic - he almost had another All-Star Game farce, which would have A) destroyed the All-Star Game, and B) put the post-season into a bit of chaos. In the end Bud got lucky, this may go down as the best All-Star Game ever.