ST. LOUIS — Bad night and all, Albert Pujols was the face of the 80th all-star game, while Roy Halladay and his future was the week’s biggest story. Busy with their own things, the glory was up for grabs and Carl Crawford, Curtis Granderson and Adam Jones seized it.
Crawford robbed Brad Hawpe of a home run with a leaping catch over the left-field wall in the seventh inning, setting the stage for Granderson to triple and score the go-ahead run on a Jones sacrifice fly in the eighth as the American League extended its domination of the National League with a 4-3 victory Tuesday.
Throw in an appearance by U.S. President Barack Obama plus an entertaining ending, and baseball’s Midsummer Classic lived up to its name on a muggy night filled with memorable moments.
“There were just so many bit and pieces of it that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” said Halladay, who had a particularly unique experience thanks to a constant frenzy of trade speculation around him.
While he did manage to glean some enjoyment from his experience, he noted quietly after the game was done a part of him was “glad it’s over.”
Not over is the longest unbeaten streak in all-star game history, as the Junior Circuit pushed its run to 12-0-1 before a Busch Stadium crowd of 46,760. The American League hasn’t lost an all-star game since 1996.
The National League still leads the overall series 40-38-2, but the Senior Circuit has lost all seven contests since the winning league started receiving home-field advantage in the World Series.
San Diego reliever Heath Bell was the victim in this one, as Granderson tripled with one out in the eighth and the Detroit Tigers centre-fielder trotted home when Jones, his counterpart from the Baltimore Orioles, hammered a fly ball to deep right.
“You look at is as, ‘Hey he’s got to come through’ and sure enough he was able to,” said Granderson. “And he drove that ball pretty well to right field and made it so there was no play at all at the plate.”
Jonathan Papelbon pitched a clean seventh — with a big assist from Crawford on Hawpe’s drive — for the win, Joe Nathan escaped a jam in the eighth to hold the lead, and Mariano Rivera saved things in the ninth.
“I don’t think I’ve ever robbed a home run before, so I picked a good time to do it,” said Crawford. “It’s probably the best catch I’ve ever made.”
Crawford’s catch meant more misery for the National League, and not even Triple Crown threat Pujols, the hometown hero, could change its fortunes. He was 0-for-3 before calling it a night.
“Obviously I wanted to do something to help our National League to win,” he lamented, “but it’s part of the game.”
Obama’s appearance made boarding a plane easier than it was getting into the ballpark, as fans had to pass through metal detectors and thorough searches at every gate. Officers with search dogs roamed the perimeter, but that did little to spoil the party.
Halladay took to the mound with a 2-0 lead after the AL scratched out a pair against NL starter Tim Lincecum in the top of the first, and retired his first five batters before David Wright’s broken-bat blooper fell in beyond Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill in right-centre.
Shane Victorino followed with a solid single and Yadier Molina sent a chopper up the middle to score Wright. Josh Hamilton’s throw from centre trying to get Victorino at third skipped off the Phillies sparkplug, allowing him to score and tie the game. Pinch-hitter Prince Fielder followed with a ground-rule double that put the NL up 3-2.
The outing capped a draining few days for Halladay, who at times was treated as if he was only in St. Louis to be showcased for auction, not actually start for the AL. It was impossible not to feel for him.
But the 32-year-old handled it all as deftly as he cuts up his opponents, and if the American public didn’t know what he’s all about before, they have a better idea now. Still, it took a toll on him and he’s ready to leave the frenzy behind.
“As soon as I get home I’m done talking about it,” he said after his outing. “You have a responsibility from time to time to address different situations and I feel like I’ve tried to do that to the best of my ability and at this point it’s out of my hands.
“I guess in a way it’s a decent way to come here and answer the questions, now you can put it behind you and move on. I’m looking forward to that part of it.”
The focus on Halladay aside, it was an otherwise fairly quiet night for the game’s other Canadian connections.
Boston’s Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., started in left field and went 1-for-2 while Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., came on in the sixth and was 0-for-2. Hill, making his all-star debut, started at second base and went 0-for-3 while making a couple of nice defensive plays.