At least you can't blame Dan Uggla.
Michael Young hit a sacrifice fly in the 15th inning and the American League won its 12th straight All-Star Game on Tuesday night (and early Wednesday morning), 4-3, capping one of the longest and most dramatic mid-summer classics in baseball history.
It took four innings before the AL finally gave up a run. After superb pitching from Cliff Lee, Joe Saunders, and Roy Halladay, a run crossed by way of a home run off the bat of Colorado's Matt Holiday. In the sixth, the AL also let Hanley Ramirez across to make it a 2-0 NL advantage.
The AL was unable to bring anything across the plate until the seventh inning, against NL ERA leader Edinson Volquez, when J.D. Drew sent a shot into the night and the right field stands. Little did the players know this game was barely half over.
The NL responded quickly, driving Miguel Tejada home in the eighth inning to retain its lead. The advantage was lived, though.
Grady Sizemore stole second and rookie sensation Evan Longoria, voted into the game through an internet ballot deciding the final roster spot, drove him in on the next pitch. The AL knotted the game back up to send the game to extra's for the first time since the infamous 2002 tie in Milwaukee.
In the bottom half of the 10th, Uggla botched not one, but two ground balls that should have been routine. Clint Hurdle put his faith in Aaron Cook, his own team's ace, and, as the clock struck midnight, he threw his best stuff to preserve the tie for the NL. Cook kept the ball down and forced the next three batters to ground out: Sizemore to Uggla, Evan Longoria to third baseman David Wright, and home-run king Justin Morneau to Miguel Tejada, who turned in a spectacular play to move the game to the 11th inning.
Joakim Soria pitched admirably, only giving up one hit in the 11th to move the game along. Aaron Cook continued to dazzle in his second inning of work, working out of a jam once again. Help came in the form of Nate McLouth, who threw a strike to catcher Russell Martin to stop Dioner Navarro from scoring in the home half of the 11th.
In the 12th, the NL played small ball after Soria walked Ryan Ludwick to lead off. McLouth again tried to play hero reaching on a bunt and being moved into scoring position by Martin. Soria regained some composure and made Uggla look silly on a curveball to strike him out. Orioles closer George Sherrill came in to make the last out and push the game one step closer to another tie.
Carlos Guillen began the bottom of the 12th with a shot to left that just missed clearing the wall. Sizemore moved him to third with a ground ball to the right side of the infield, leaving Longoria with a chance to make the most of his first All-Star Game. However, his youth showed a bit as Cook spun him around in the box to notch his first strikeout. Cook put Morneau on to get to Ian Kinsler, a move that proved fruitful as Kinsler grounded weakly to third.
As the game went to the 13th and pitching staffs ran low, it appeared that the game might not be far from another tie. Sherrill threw his best again, but with only Scott Kazmir (who threw 104 pitches on Sunday) left, questions over how much longer the game could go ran rampant.
With Carlos Marmol pitching in the bottom of the 13th, Dan Uggla did nothing to help himself or his team, bobbling another grounder off the bat of J.D. Drew for his third error of the game. His third error came at 1 a.m. Eastern, exactly one hour after his previous two. Carlos Quentin wasted another good opportunity for the AL with a strikeout to end the inning.
Sherrill worked a quick 1-2-3 top of the 14th, getting the pesky Miguel Tejada on a grounder for the third out. Brandon Webb came out for Marmol in the bottom of the 14th and immediately received more stellar defense from Tejada, who snared a Carlos Guillen line drive. Webb helped himself after that, striking out Sizemore and Longoria to extend the game to the 15th.
No All-Star Game has ever gone past the 15th inning, and, if 2002 is any kind of indication, it appeared this game would not either. Kazmir appeared for the AL, leaving the home bullpen empty, and the game no closer to an appeasing final. Brad Lidge, the last NL pitcher, came out in the bottom of the 15th, marking the beginning of the end for the game.
Ian Kinsler tried his best to move the game closer to an end, but Ryan Ludwick would have none of it, making a spectacular diving play in left. Lidge, however, seemed to have had enough of this marathon. He walked the bases full and then gave Michael Young a pitch to hit, which he drilled into left deep enough to score Morneau from third and keep the AL All-Star Game streak alive.
With the game no more than an inning from an unfortunate end, the AL came through and proved it is still the dominant league. The AL dominated interleague play again, winning overall, 149-103, and took what was rightfully theirs: the All-Star Game and, subsequently, home-field advantage for the World Series.
After the game, home-run hero J.D. Drew was honored as the game's Most Valuable Player. He was certainly deserving of such an honor, going 2-for-4 on the night with a homer, two RBI, a stolen base, and a walk to his name. He earned it, and maybe earned his team home-field later on.
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