From the early moments of what ended up as the longest All Star Game in baseball history, it appeared that a member of the New York Yankees would play the hero in the festivities at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night. As it turned out, the hero would end up a member of the Boston Red Sox—J.D. Drew won the Most Valuable Player award in the American League’s 4-3, 15 inning victory.
From the start, most of the hype surrounding the game has been about the venue, rather than individuals or even team rivalries. But at every point, the Yankees were the story. During pregame introductions, Yankees were cheered, of course, Red Sox were booed, and everyone else received largely indifferent responses.
Once the game began, the fans rose up with a chant in memory of Bobby Murcer. This was quickly followed by “Red Sox suck,” despite the fact that on this night, Red Sox and Yankees played for the same team.
Derek Jeter took the early lead for MVP honors, singling in the bottom of the first, and promptly stole second base. After a Josh Hamilton strikeout, Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate with a chance to put the American League on the board. But Rodriguez popped out to the catcher, and the stadium sat back down collectively.
Jeter had another chance to play the hero with one on and nobody out in a scoreless game in the third. But the normally patient Jeter went after the first pitch, grounding into a double play. Rodriguez then led off the bottom of the fourth by striking out, and their window for redemption quickly closed. Rodriguez left to a nice hand with one out in the fifth, Jeter with one out in the sixth to a more sustained ovation.
That left it up to Mariano Rivera to play the hero, and the Yankee closer tried his best. But before he had the chance, J.D. Drew hit a two-run homer in his first All-Star at-bat after replacing Ichiro Suzuki in right field.
By the time Rivera entered the game in the ninth, the teams were tied at three, the National League had one on and one out, and the loudest ovation of the night went to Rivera, who jogged into the game to his traditional “Enter Sandman,” and promptly induced a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play to retire the side.
Yankee Stadium had seen this script before. Now was the time for the home team to strike, making a winner of Rivera. But Ryan Dempster had other ideas, striking out the side to force extra innings.
Rivera returned for his second inning. Though the National League loaded the bases with one out, Rivera induced a double play from Dan Uggla, who earned whatever the opposite of MVP is in the game with three errors, and twice failing to get a lead run in from third base with one out.
Now Rivera not only stood to be the winning pitcher, but his 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball made him a good candidate to be named MVP. Yankee Stadium would have the appropriate sendoff. And two of Uggla’s errors made that ending even more certain, putting runners on first and third with nobody out. An intentional walk loaded the bases with none out, and victory seemed moments away for the American League.
It was not to be. Three straight groundouts, and on to the eleventh. The Rivera-as-hero story was dead.
The top of the fifteenth briefly offered New York Mets fans redemption. The only two Met representatives had done poorly, with Billy Wagner allowing the American League to tie the game at three in the eighth inning, and David Wright, inserted into the game as Designated Hitter, striking out each of his first two at-bats. But in the fifteenth, with two outs, Wright faced Scott Kazmir, the Mets prospect who was given away to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. Kazmir, however, offered four wide ones to Wright. A Cristian Guzman groundout ended the inning.
So that left the bottom of the fifteenth, where J.D. Drew’s walk, his fourth time reaching base on the night, set the stage for the game-winning sacrifice fly by Michael Young. But Young had just one hit on the night, and two strikeouts. Drew was the easy choice.
The night ended with Drew receiving the customary car out by second base. As he was announced, the few hundred remaining fans booed him lustily. Never mind that if the Yankees make it to the World Series, Drew will be the primary reason they will get to play a Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. A game that was supposed to celebrate the Yankees ended with a Red Sox player lauded on the infield.
October, once the province of the Yankees, has become the stomping grounds of the Red Sox. Tuesday night, even Yankee Stadium, after much ado, belonged to Boston as well.