By Ronald Blum The Associated Press
MIAMI — Robinson Cano hugged Francisco Lindor after the final out, exchanged high-fives with his American League teammates and put an arm around the shoulder of designated hitter/photographer Nelson Cruz.
Winning the All-Star Game still seemed to matter, even if it didn’t mean World Series home field.
Cano homered off Cubs closer Wade Davis leading off the 10th inning and the AL beat the National League 2-1 Tuesday night for its fifth straight victory in a game dominated by this era’s flame-throwers, rather than its standout sluggers.
At 34, the Seattle second baseman was among the oldest players in an event built around so many of the sport’s new, young stars, and he was added to the roster only Friday as an injury replacement. At that time, he didn’t realize baseball players and owners had scrapped the rule giving home-field advantage in October to the league that wins the Midsummer Classic.
“When I found out, I said, I might get an at-bat,” Cano recalled.
Cano earned the MVP honour with his one clutch swing. He sent a hanging curve off the back wall of the right-field bullpen, then blew a bubble with his gum when rounding the bases.
He remembered telling his dad: “I’m not picked ‚Äî like the last one. If I play, it’s great,” he said.
Cano hip-bumped Cruz on the way back the dugout, then was joined by jumping, hopping and high-fiving teammates on the bench. For good measure, they doused Cano with sunflower seeds and fanned him with towels.
Craig Kimbrel wiggled out of a jam in the ninth and right fielder Justin Upton made a lunging catch in the 10th to help the AL. And for the first time since 1964, the rivalry is back to all even ‚Äî 43 wins apiece with two ties, and each side has scored exactly 361 runs.
Cleveland closer Andrew Miller finished off the win. Manager Brad Mills, taking over the AL squad because Indians skipper Terry Francona was recovering from a heart procedure last week, was thrilled.
“The last thing we wanted to do was get pitchers in that shouldn’t probably be in the game, and risk an injury or something,” Mills said.
Cano’s homer came exactly 50 years after the previous All-Star extra-inning homer, when Tony Perez hit a tiebreaking 15th-inning shot off Catfish Hunter in the NL’s 2-1 win at Anaheim, California. Perez, now a Marlins executive, was among eight Latin-born Hall of Famers who threw out ceremonial first pitches.
Miguel Sano put the AL ahead in the fifth with a bloop RBI single against Alex Wood. Yadier Molina tied it in the sixth with a home run off Ervin Santana and two days before his 35th birthday became the oldest catcher with an All-Star long ball.
Molina had just entered behind the plate in the top half and snapped off an All-Star first ‚Äî Cruz pulled a phone out of his uniform pants and asked the catcher to shoot a photo of him with umpire Joe West, who recently worked the 5,000th game of his career.
“I would bet if the game had counted, he would not have done that,” NL manager Joe Maddon said.
Molina took the request in stride.
“It was weird, huh? It was funny, too,” he said. “I said: Are you serious? He was. So I did it.”
Cruz had planned a similar stunt for the 2013 but said he couldn’t do it.
“This time, if I had to take a picture with someone it was Joe West. He’s the legend,” Cruz explained. “He said, ‘Come on get out of here, what are you doing?’ Then he said, ‘Yeah, yeah. Let’s do it.”
West couldn’t believe what was happening.
“I’ve never seen that before ‚Äî ever,” he told The Associated Press. “That’s the first time I ever think I’ve been speechless on a field.”
Davis wasn’t with the Cubs last fall when they won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. He was acquired in a trade from Kansas City to fortify the bullpen, and was the only Cubs player in this showcase. Chicago has struggled this season, going into the break at 43-45.
Kimbrel, throwing at up to 100 mph, stranded runners at second and third to end the ninth, striking out Michael Conforto. The Boston closer wound up with the win.
Miller, whose Cleveland Indians lost the World Series in Game 7, got the save with some help from Upton.
A left fielder playing in right for the first time in four years, Upton extended his arm on a full run to catch Corey Seager’s liner leading off the 10th. Miller walked Joey Votto with two outs, then struck out rookie sensation Cody Bellinger on a slider.
The AL’s first six hits were by first-time All-Stars but some things don’t change. The AL has won 12 of 15 and 17 of the last 20 All-Star Games played to a decision.
The night’s most-watched sluggers fizzled.
A day after winning the Home Run Derby with 47 long balls, Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge went 0 for 3, with a strikeout against NL starter Max Scherzer, groundout against Carlos Martinez and flyout versus Wood.
“I was nervous the first pitch,” Judge said, “but after that its go time ‚Äî 3-2 I was getting ready for 100 (mph), and I got a slider.”
Giancarlo Stanton, the star slugger of the hometown Marlins, was 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts and a dribbler in front of the plate.
NL pitchers struck out 14, including four by Martinez, three by Kenley Jansen and two each by starter Scherzer and Greg Holland. AL pitchers fanned nine. The average fastball velocity in the game was 96.5 mph, up from 94.8 mph last year, according to MLB’s Statcast.
“Spectacular pitching on both sides,” Maddon said.
Harper made a diving backhand catch in short right centre as his cap fell off, robbing Salvador Perez of a hit for the final out of the second. Harper wore blue-and-orange spikes with the image of late Marlins star Jose Fernandez and the pitcher’s No. 16 outlined in a circle.
Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, dealing with mechanical problems of late, threw just 12 of 23 pitches for strikes in the third. He walked Harper and Buster Posey, threw a pair of wild pitches and got out of a bases-loaded jam when Murphy grounded out. Betances joined Juan Marichal, Dave Stieb and John Smoltz as the only ones to throw two wild pitches in an All-Star inning.
“After I lost Harper I lost concentration a little bit,” Betances said. “I was able to settle down and make pitches when I needed to.”