In terms of overall excitement, the American League's 3-0 victory in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game doesn't compare to some past Midsummer Classics.
However, in terms of providing the fans and the sport of baseball with a moment that will carry on forever, the end of Mariano Rivera's All-Star career will definitely be among the top.
A lot of time could be spent discussing other parts of the game, like the plethora of great pitching on display. But this was Rivera's stage. The rest of the world was just there to watch.
In honor of Rivera's final All-Star Game, here are the biggest winners and losers from the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.
After a rocky start that included giving up a leadoff double to Mike Trout and hitting Robinson Cano with a pitch in the knee, Harvey settled down to do what he has done better than anyone else in the National League this season: strike people out.
Miguel Cabrera was the third hitter of the first inning and struck out on a devastating Harvey slider. Chris Davis came up fourth and hit a lazy pop fly on a changeup low and away. Jose Bautista ended the inning by striking out on another slider by Harvey.
Harvey appeared nervous at the outset, but he eventually settled down and performed beautifully.
He came back in the second inning and was able get David Ortiz to pop out, then blew away Adam Jones with a high 98 mph fastball. He closed out his All-Star appearance by getting Joe Mauer to line out to left field.
Not a bad way for Harvey to get the first All-Star experience out of the way.
You never want to see anyone get hurt, however minor it may be, in an All-Star Game. Cano stepped into the box after Mike Trout doubled to start the game and was unintentionally hit by Harvey with a fastball right in the knee.
Cano tried to stay in the game, heading down to first base, but after Cabrera struck out, the New York Yankees second baseman was forced to exit for good. He made sure to let Harvey know that there were no hard feelings, though, gesturing to the Mets pitcher with a head nod.
Cano said that he would be fine during an interview on the FOX telecast, and ready to go when the Yankees play the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
But you could feel manager Joe Girardi and everyone else associated with the Yankees organization holding their collective breath following the play, especially with the way that lineup has been decimated by injuries all season.
Through the magic of the Internet, a baseball player can be subject to GIFs or memes based on something they do on the mound, a reaction to a big strikeout, or in the case of Yu Darvish, the ridiculous movement on all his pitches.
For Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee, the All-Star Game was a chance for him to become the newest internet sensation by reacting with the most stoic face in the history of the world when he was booed by the sellout crowd at Citi Field.
Hitting left-handed pitching has never been easy for left-handed hitters, even for the best in the game. But Carlos Gonzalez was taken to school in a way that very few All-Stars experience by Chris Sale's slider in the second inning.
The tall Chicago White Sox lefty got Gonzalez to swing at a breaking ball about two feet off the plate that he was embarrassingly out in front of to open the at-bat. Sale came back with a fastball on the next pitch before going back to the sweeping breaking ball to finish Gonzalez off.
It was impressive enough that Jose Fernandez made the All-Star team, but he backed up his selection by pitching well in his one inning of work. The Miami Marlins rookie was outstanding and easily the best pitcher on the NL staff, at least for this night.
Fernandez made his appearance in the the sixth inning, replacing Lee. He struck out Dustin Pedroia and Chris Davis while getting Miguel Cabrera to pop out in-between. The 20-year-old threw around 95-97 mph with his fastball and hit 98 multiple times, including three straight to Cabrera. His breaking ball was sharp and could have worked for three or four more innings.
But more important than just the raw stuff was that Fernandez was able to showcase to mainstream fans who are never going to watch the Marlins what hardcore baseball junkies already know: This young right-hander is a stud and should not be forgotten in the conversation for top young pitchers in baseball.
On one hand, you can applaud Jim Leyland for micromanaging the All-Star Game like it matters more than your usual exhibition game. It could also be that the Detroit Tigers manager was just trying to get more pitchers in the game and let them have their moment.
But at some point, making a pitching change in the middle of an inning in an All-Star Game becomes annoying. It slows the pace of the game down and hurts the entertainment value.
For instance, Toronto's Steve Delabar won the AL Final Vote contest, but there are probably a lot of people who don't know his long, painful journey to the big leagues. Instead of him getting a chance to pitch an entire inning, Leyland took Brett Cecil out and allowed the Blue Jays right-hander to get one out against Buster Posey, hardly enough time for the broadcasters to give his story proper justice.
Having middle relievers in an All-Star Game is pointless anyway, but if they have a good story like Delabar, at least make it so we have a chance to learn who he is instead of prolonging the game.
Yet all of this pales in comparison to Leyland having Mariano Rivera pitch in the eighth inning because he was worried that the other pitchers on the staff might blow a three-run lead and make it so the game never got to the ninth for Rivera to close it out.
After the All-Star rosters were announced, I championed Evan Longoria being just as worthy as—if not more so than—Manny Machado. It wasn't a knock on Machado, but rather a case to get who I believe is the best all-around third baseman in baseball into the Midsummer Classic.
(I had no problem with Machado being there, because he is already a star and deserves the spotlight to take the next step with casual baseball fans.)
But Machado immediately reminded me why there may not be a more exciting defensive player in the American League—and with the exception of Andrelton Simmons in the NL, possibly all of baseball—by showing off his incredible throwing arm on a ground-ball hit by Paul Goldschmidt.
The Baltimore Orioles third baseman had to back up, plant and fire a strike to get Goldschmidt out. Defense has gained a lot of traction in evaluating the game, and you can see why with players like Machado flashing the leather in a low-scoring All-Star Game.
I don't pretend to be a fan of Neil Diamond or the song "Sweet Caroline." I can appreciate that Boston uses it late in games as both a rallying cry and unifying moment for the fans in attendance at Fenway Park.
But having Diamond perform the song at Citi Field, where it really has no connection to the audience, made little sense. Then there's the fact that nothing about the performance came off well, from Diamond being off beat to really having no energy to sell the song, it was just something that didn't work on this stage.
Maybe, the next time the All-Star Game is in Boston, it will work. But nowhere else, please.
After Diamond finished his performance, Citi Field went quiet for a brief moment before the guitar started over the PA system playing Metallica's "Enter Sandman," signifying that Mariano Rivera was coming into the game.
We all knew the moment would be incredible, because how could it not be? But this was far beyond anything anyone could have predicted. Rivera ran to the mound with no other player on the field, giving him the full spotlight one more time with fans, players and umpires all standing and applauding.
In typical Rivera fashion, he worked a clean, crisp inning, allowing no hits on just 16 pitches. To top it all off he was also named MVP of the game for his efforts.
The only thing that didn't work about this moment was that Leyland's paranoia of bullpens, likely helped by the fact that his own team's has been so dreadful, forced Rivera into the game in the eighth inning with the AL leading 3-0 instead of saving him for the ninth.
For the record, Rivera's All-Star career ended with 9.0 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 5 H, 5 K, 0 BB.
We spend so much time talking about the pitching in baseball today, but in an All-Star Game with a lineup that featured Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, you would think the National League could muster more than just three hits.
In fact, before Wright's sharp single to left field in the seventh inning, there really wasn't a hard hit ball that dropped for the National League. It was a testament to the arms in the AL right now, but it was also a sign that, perhaps, the NL hitters may not be ready for what the other league has to throw at them.
Goldschmidt got the only extra-base hit of the night for the NL, a two-out double in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Of course, it is also possible that this was just one of those nights where nothing falls for one team and a few things do for the other. Even burly Prince Fielder managed a triple in the ninth inning for the American League because Carlos Gomez tried to make a spectacular diving catch on a ball that dropped in front of him.
Baseball can be a sport that frustrates even the best at times, and the National League proved unable to escape that fact Tuesday night.
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