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Rodriguez makes AL's point again

Angels' closer gets the shaky save as league continues domination with 5-4 victory. Suzuki is MVP with an inside-the-park homer.

July 11, 2007|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — He looked toward the outfield, the adrenaline draining from him all at once.

The ball would be caught. The All-Star game would be won. There would be none of the wild fist pumps, his usual celebration for getting the job done. This time, he would point to the sky, to thank God and his late grandmother, and that would be all. He was exhausted and relieved, and that was more than enough emotion on this evening.

"I was really happy and excited when I saw the fly ball," Francisco Rodriguez said. "I didn't want to be the guy that blew the save out there."

The Angels' closer bailed out the American League in Tuesday's All-Star game, but not before he injected a fair bit of drama into the proceedings. Rodriguez walked the tying and winning runs into scoring position, then got Aaron Rowand to fly out, securing a 5-4 victory for the AL and extending its unbeaten streak in the All-Star game to 11.

The streak ties the All-Star game record, set by the National League from 1972-82. The AL streak includes the infamous tie of 2002.

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki hit the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star history, a two-run shot in the fifth inning that gave the AL the lead for good. He had three hits, two singles and what he said was his first inside-the-park home run in either the United States or Japan.

He was selected as the game's most valuable player, the first Japanese native to win that award.

Ken Griffey Jr. appeared to be well on his way to that award. He drove in two runs, including a single that gave the NL a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and he threw out Alex Rodriguez at the plate in the fourth.

In the fifth, however, he guessed wrong on Suzuki's deep drive to right field. Then again, so did Suzuki.

"I thought it was going to go over the fence," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "When it didn't, I was really bummed."

So was Griffey, who had turned and prepared for a carom toward center field. Instead, the ball bounded toward right field, as Suzuki raced around the bases and scored standing up.

Barry Bonds basked in repeated ovations in his home park but flied out in both his at-bats.

After Suzuki hit his inside-the-park home run, Carl Crawford hit an over-the-wall shot in the sixth, and pinch-hitter Victor Martinez did the same in the eighth. The AL led 5-2 at that point, and Manager Jim Leyland turned to his trio of closers.

Jonathan Papelbon worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth, flirting with enough trouble that Rodriguez warmed up behind him. J.J. Putz got two quick outs in the ninth, and Rodriguez figured he would not pitch.

"I thought the game was over," Rodriguez said.

But Dmitri Young singled and Alfonso Soriano homered to right, cutting the AL lead to 5-4. Rodriguez hurried to warm up again. When J.J. Hardy walked, putting the tying run on base, Leyland called on Rodriguez, for a rare mid-inning appearance

They don't like Rodriguez here, or the Angels. Something about L.A., and the 2002 World Series.

"The crowd was going nuts," he said. "They booed me like they did in '02. It was the same adrenaline."

Too much, perhaps. Rodriguez walked Derrek Lee on seven pitches, then Orlando Hudson on five.

Up came Rowand, with Albert Pujols on the bench. NL Manager Tony La Russa said he was saving Pujols for extra innings, because of his versatility.

First pitch, strike one, called. Second pitch, fly ball to right field, game over.

Rodriguez had the most notable evening among the Angels, with Vladimir Guerrero hitless in three at-bats and Lackey not pitching, apparently held back in case of extra innings.

"They didn't tell me anything," Lackey said.

Brad Penny and Takashi Saito of the Dodgers each pitched a perfect inning, both booed relentlessly. Russell Martin went hitless in three at-bats. He was booed here -- and almost cursed in New York, when he hit a broken-bat line drive in the second inning. Alex Rodriguez caught the ball -- as he dodged a piece of the shattered bat.

In the sixth inning, with the tying run in scoring position, Martin popped up.

"What would have been cool is, if I would have tied the game up, I would have gotten cheers," Martin said. "That would probably have been the first time a Dodger would have been cheered in San Francisco."

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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Their starring roles

How players from the Dodgers and Angels fared in Tuesday's All-Star game (Note: The Angels' John Lackey did not pitch):

Source: Associated Press

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