Felix Hernandez was in line to get the win on Tuesday night, but his teammates couldn’t secure it for him and he had to settle for a no-decision.
To be fair, this time the circumstances were slightly different. This was the 2014 All-Star Game – a game that has slightly less meaning than a showdown with the A’s. Hernandez didn’t deliver seven or eight innings of pitching goodness only to see it slip away late because of bullpen issues or a lack of run support.
This time it was the best pitchers in the American League, who couldn’t hold the lead. This time it was the best hitters in the American League, hitters he terrorizes in the regular season, that couldn’t add the requisite insurance runs. So it was another no decision. But the ending was still happy for Hernandez.
The American League prevailed in the end, picking up a 5-3 win at a packed Target Field.
“It was amazing,” Hernandez said. “One of the best experiences of my life. It was a special night for me and my family.”
So if the Mariners make it to the World Series, something that seems far less implausible than it did at the beginning of the season, he’ll be able to start Game 1 at Safeco Field with the home field advantage.
“That works, doesn’t it?” said teammate Kyle Seager.
Under the scoring rules of the All-Star Game, Hernandez was in line to get the win after throwing a scoreless top of the first inning and his teammates giving him a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Hernandez gave up an infield single to the ultra speedy Andrew McCutchen to start the game. McCutchen hit a bullet to shortstop where Derek Jeter was able to make a brilliant diving stop, but his throw was late.
Hernandez locked in, striking out Yasiel Puig and Troy Tulowitzki on nasty changeups and then getting Paul Goldschmidt to ground out to third to end his outing.
“I was a little nervous but felt good and settled in,” he said.
A Mike Trout RBI triple and a two-run homer gave Hernandez a 3-0 lead. The last time Hernandez was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning was on June 20, 2013 in Anaheim. He actually took the loss in the game. Blowing a seven-run lead.
This wasn’t quite a dramatic or frustrating.
Jon Lester gave up two runs in the second inning and Chris Sale gave up another run in the fourth that tied the game and gave Hernandez a no decision.
Like in the regular season, Hernandez shrugged off the idea of getting the win since his team won in the end.
“Sure, it would have been good,” he said. “But there’s some pretty good players on the other side to. It was a fun night and I was happy how things went for me and the guys.”
The American League broke the 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth. Trout doubled home Derek Norris and Jose Altuve scored Alexei Ramirez with a deep sacrifice fly to left field. The AL kept the 5-3 lead with seven pitchers, including teammate Fernando Rodney, combining to work the final four innings without allowing a run.
In a nice touch by Farrell, the Twins’ battery of catcher Kurt Suzuki and closer Glen Perkins were inserted in the top of the ninth to secure the win. Perkins worked a 1-2-3 ninth to get the save.
Detroit’s starter Max Scherzer, who started the All-Star Game last year, got the win in relief, pitching a scoreless fifth inning.
Of course, the night still belonged to Derek Jeter. It was apparent in the days leading up to the game. Countless words were written about the narrative of his last all-star game in a storied career.
After a two-minute standing ovation, Derek Jeter lined the firs pitch he saw from NL starter Adam Wainwright into right field for a double. The pitch from Wainwright was a belt-high, 90-mph cookie of a fastball that split the plate in half. Jeter didn’t miss it.
It was reminiscent of the pitch Chan Ho Park delivered to Cal Ripken Jr. during the 2001 All-Star Game at Safeco Field. Ripken, who was also on a farewell tour of a final season that year, hit a two-run homer and was named the MVP. Wainwright admitted he eased up for Jeter.
“I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it,” Wainwright told reporters. “I didn’t know he was gonna hit a double or I might have changed my mind.”
NL manager Mike Matheny tried to defray that notion postgame.
“I know that has been completely blown out of proportion and taken out of context,” Matheny said. “Anybody that knows anything about this guy knows that he’s one of the greatest competitors that played this game in a long time.”
When he singled to right field with his signature inside-out swing on a 94-mph fastball from Alfredo Simon in the third inning, it seemed to cement his status as the game’s MVP. However, Trout’s two extra base hits and two RBIs earned him the honors instead.
“I told you guys before, I’m not retiring at the end of the season because I don’t think I can play,” he said. “It’s just the time is right.”
As promised manager John Farrell removed Jeter at the beginning of the top of the fourth inning, replacing him with Alexei Ramirez. This allowed Jeter jog off the field as the sold out crowd of 41,048 stood and applauded. The ovation, which included the players on the field and in the both dugouts, lasted well over five minutes, long enough for Jeter to hug all of his American League teammates and finally give an appreciated curtain call.
“I thought it was great,” Jeter said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. My back was turned and I heard (Robinson) Cano yelling — usually when he yells I ignore him. And then I saw Ramirez come out. It was a wonderful moment that I’m always going to remember. I appreciate John doing that for me.”
One of those applauding was his longtime teammate Robinson Cano, who got to start next to Jeter as they had done so many times in New York.
“It was fun,” he said. “That’s all I wanted to do was enjoy my time with him.”
It was his last chance to do so on a baseball field.