The 2013 All-Star game may not have started off great for the Yankees or their fans because Robinson Cano was hit in the back of his leg, near his knee, by a pitch thrown by Matt Harvey and had to leave the game in the first inning - the x-rays were negative, thank goodness - but it certainly ended on a good note. Well, not quite the literal end but it was close to the end!
AL manager Jim Leyland opted to bring Mariano Rivera into the game to pitch the eighth inning instead of his customary ninth inning. The reasoning behind this decision was that the game was in an NL park and if the NL team scored a bunch of runs in the eighth, there wouldn't be a bottom of the ninth inning and Mo wouldn't be able to pitch.
Mo wanted to pitch and Leyland wanted him to pitch.
It was controversial and there were a lot of people who had a lot of opinions about this particular move - it was mostly Yankee fans though there were some fans from other teams also voicing their displeasure as well - but luckily for Leyland and the American League squad it worked out pretty well.
After Jason Kipnis gave the AL a 3-0 lead in the top of the eighth and after Neil Diamond sang a pretty abysmal karaoke version of "Sweet Caroline," Rivera made his way through the Citi Field bullpen and stepped onto the warning track as the opening notes of "Enter Sandman" began blaring out of the speakers.
He made his way to the mound with flashes going off in the stands, and with both teams giving him an ovation. The AL squad opted to stay in the dugout while Mo stood on the mound for a couple of minutes as the sell-out crowd gave him a standing ovation.
The emotion was all over Mo's face as he tipped his hat to the crowd and turned to acknowledge every section of the stadium.
Then, after his teammates joined him on the field to continue the game, he threw a scoreless 1-2-3 inning. It took only 16 pitches and as he was walking to the dugout, first baseman, Prince Fielder, handed him the ball.
In the top of the ninth, Fielder had a moment of his own when he hit a triple off Pirates' closer Jason Grilli. He didn't score and the AL was still up only 3-0 when Joe Nathan came in to close the game.
Nathan struck out his first two batters - Matt Carpenter looking and Andrew McCutchen swinging. He gave up a double to Paul Goldschmidt and after getting to a 3-2 count on Pedro Alvarez, Nathan got him to pop out to second to end the game.
When it came time to exchange high fives and hand shakes, Nathan handed the game ball to Rivera.
While in commercial break, tweets from Citi Field revealed that Rivera was going to be the M.V.P. much to the chagrin of some fans of other teams. As the Fox broadcast returned, they threw it over to Erin Andrews who along with Commissioner Bud Selig and the CEO of Chervolet, presented Mariano Rivera with the M.V.P. and with the keys to a really sharp looking Corvette Stingray.
He spoke to the crowd and thanked them, thanked his AL teammates, thanked the NL team, thanked the crowd again and I think he even thanked me at one point.
Mo was just soaking it all in. You could see it when he was alone on the mound during the standing ovation. He looked around and it was as if he was taking picture after picture in his mind.
Some mo' notes:
- Rivera's All-Star line: 9 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 4 SV
- That's a 0.00 ERA
- He's the first reliever to win the All-Star M.V.P.
- And he's the first pitcher to win it since Pedro Martinez won in 1999.