For the second season in a row, the American League will host the World Series. And for the second season in a row, it has a New York Yankee legend to thank.
Last year, it was Mariano Rivera taking home MVP in his All-Star Game swan song. This year, Derek Jeter didn't take home the same award, but he delivered a similarly memorable farewell performance, going 2-for-2 with a single, double and a run scored to help the AL to a 5-3 victory over the NL.
From past to future, though, the MVP award instead went to 22-year-old Mike Trout, who had a double, a triple and two RBI:
Miguel Cabrera chipped in a two-run home run, while Max Scherzer earned the win after a scoreless inning of work and Glen Perkins notched the save in front of the hometown crowd.
On the other side, Jonathan Lucroy had two RBI doubles, but the NL couldn't overcome five earned runs from the St. Louis Cardinals duo of Adam Wainwright and Pat Neshek.
The numbers didn't suggest Jeter belonged at Target Field this week, but a history of consistently coming through in big moments trumped that. And it took him just two pitches to justify his selection.
Leading off the bottom of the first, Jeets doubled off Wainwright and came around to score when Trout followed up with a triple. As Joe Girardi would suggest, via ESPN's Jayson Stark, it was just another scene in the future Hall of Famer's blockbuster of a career:
And perhaps it was more scripted than one would like to believe. Later in the game, Wainwright admitted to tossing Jeter a cookie, via Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan:
Maybe he grooved one to Cabrera, too (not really), because the Detroit Tigers slugger quickly continued the assault with a two-run shot to give the AL an early 3-0 lead.
ESPN Stats & Info put Miggy's homer into historical perspective:
The NL would bounce right back, though. After Jon Lester relieved Felix Hernandez in the top of the second, Aramis Ramirez singled and Chase Utley and Lucroy hit back-to-back RBI doubles to make it 3-2.
But before they could continue the comeback, it was time for Jeter to receive one final moment of appreciation.
The Captain singled in his last All-Star at-bat and was subsequently taken out in the top of the fourth to a huge standing ovation. Passan gave a look at the scene:
The Yankees' official Twitter feed celebrated its legend:
Overall, it was an extended tribute that lasted several minutes, but as Sports Illustrated's Peter King and CBS Sports' Jon Heyman noted, it was well deserved for the 14-time All-Star:
Back on the diamond, Lucroy tied the game at three with his second RBI two-bagger of the night, but even after his fantastic performance, he could only talk about Jeter, much like everyone else:
In what could easily be seen as the symbolic passing of the torch, Trout immediately stepped up to the plate after Jeter's departure and put the AL back in front. The young phenom doubled down the left-field line, scoring Derek Norris and completing a feat that hadn't been accomplished in 80 years:
Jose Altuve followed with a sacrifice fly, giving the AL a 5-3 advantage after five innings, and Trout would soon end his night, much to the chagrin of the man many think he'll be replacing as the face of MLB:
In the final four innings, six AL pitchers combined to allow one hit and no runs to finish off the game. Perkins put the final nail in the coffin, going one-two-three with teammate Kurt Suzuki catching to seal the victory.
Focus can now shift back to the regular season, and with four of the divisions currently separated by fewer than two games at the top, it should be a scintillating second half.
Beyond that, there's good news for the American League: The past five winners of the All-Star Game have used home-field advantage to go on to win the World Series.