One of the themes of this MLB season has been a celebration of the incomparable Mariano Rivera as he makes one last, triumphant tour of the circuit.
Last night, in the town he has owned seemingly forever, Rivera was feted once again.
The Yankees’ closer was named the Most Valuable Player of the 84th annual All-Star Game following the American League’s 3-0 win over the National League Tuesday night at Citi Field.
“As a team player you don’t look for these things,” Rivera said during a postgame press conference in which he was surrounded by his family. “It just happens. I’m honored and proud to be a member of the New York Yankees, and to play for this city.
“To do it the way I have, all I have to say is thank God for that.”
The American League won its first All-Star Game since 2009.
White Sox starter Chris Sale threw two perfect innings to earn the win, while Arizona’s Patrick Corbin took the loss. Texas closer Joe Nathan recorded the save.
Only Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, Mets third baseman David Wright and Paul Goldschmidt had hits for the National League.
“That’s a good lineup we threw out there; a lot of good hitters. But give them credit, they pitched so well,” NL manager Bruce Bochy said. “We played well, pitched well and we just couldn’t mount any offense.”
The American League scored three runs on nine hits. Jose Bautista’s sac fly in the fourth inning scored Miguel Cabrera with game’s first run. Cabrera opened the inning with a double off Corbin, and Detroit’s MVP candidate advanced to third when Baltimore’s Chris Davis singled off Joey Votto’s glove.
The AL’s lead grew to 2-0 in the fifth when Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy’s plated teammate Adam Jones.
Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis’s RBI double in the eighth scored Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez with the game’s last run, which prompted AL manager Jim Leyland to bring in Rivera to pitch the bottom half of the inning.
He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, in between standing ovations from the crowd and both dugouts.
Leyland expounded why he did not have Rivera close.
“My motivation for [the game] was to work our fannies off to get to the ninth and bring in the greatest closer of all time for obvious reasons,” Leyland said. “I hope you all understand that. Who knows, something freaky would’ve happened in the eighth where they would have scored some runs or taken the lead.”
If the superseding premise of this Midsummer Classic were celebrating the game’s best players while determining home-field advantage in the World Series, then the subtext was the opportunity to say goodbye to Rivera and hello to the Mets’ Matt Harvey.
Named the NL starter by manager Bruce Bochy Monday, Harvey proved the national stage was not too big for him as he struck out three in his two innings. Harvey became the first Mets pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1984 to throw two scoreless innings in an All-Star Game.
“It was so much fun,” Harvey said. “Just being in the locker room with all the guys, the whole experience, the Red Carpet, it being in New York and starting. As a kid, I don't think you could have dreamed of doing something like that. It was a tremendous honor, and something I'm very thankful for.
“For some reason once I got out there, I felt great and felt like I was at home. I kind of wish there was some more jitters, but they didn't come and everything felt great.”
Harvey only yielded Mike Trout’s leadoff double in the first. He then hit the next batter, Robinson Cano, on the right quad with a 96-mph fastball.
“We had called fastball in there, and I knew I had to get it inside, but obviously I didn't want to get in that much. You know, once I let it go, I could kind of feel it, that I cut it a little bit. So I was hoping he was going to be able to get out of the way, but unfortunately he didn't. It definitely was not intentional,” Harvey said. “That was the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody. As he was walking by, I was trying to kind of get his attention as he was going to first and when he then came off, obviously I apologized and made sure that he was OK.”
Cano left the game with a contusion, but X-rays were negative and he said he was fine.
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.