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AL Run Continues With Marathon

NL Winless Since '96 After 15-Inning Loss

Justin Morneau
Justin Morneau slides home just in time on Michael Young's sacrifice fly in the 15th inning, giving the AL a 4-3 victory over the NL that extends its unbeaten streak to 12. (Craig Ruttle - Bloomberg News)
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By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008; 3:05 AM

NEW YORK, July 15 -- The stirring pregame ceremony was a distant memory, the overcooked closer-subplot reduced to mere tabloid frivolity. The focus had shifted entirely from the historic setting and the petty squabbles to the astonishing spectacle on the field, as the final all-star game at grand old Yankee Stadium lurched deeper into Wednesday morning -- the innings creeping by without resolution, the bases constantly full of base runners who inevitably were marooned there, the worried managers down to their last available pitchers.

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On the night the greater baseball nation bade a fond farewell to its most storied and exalted venue, the game itself rose from a vehicle for ceremony to an instant classic, a reminder that even the House That Ruth Built would be just another crumbling building without baseball as its soul.

The longest game in All-Star Game history ended at 1:37 a.m. -- just shy of the five-hour mark -- when Michael Young's sacrifice fly off Brad Lidge in the bottom of the 15th inning scored Justin Morneau just ahead of Brian McCann's tag, giving the AL a 4-3 win. It kept the AL undefeated since 1997 and spared Major League Baseball the possibility of its second tie game this decade.

"Everybody was just crying 'uncle' waiting for it to get over," said Baltimore Orioles closer George Sherrill, who pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

By the time the crowd went into its encore of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" -- this time as the 14th-inning stretch -- the unpleasant memories of 2002 were unavoidable. That was the infamous 11-inning tie game in Milwaukee that spawned a roster expansion, as well as the idea, now well-established, of linking home-field advantage to the all-star game's outcome. Both were designed to avoid another tie.

But both teams called upon their final available pitchers in the 15th, Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir for the AL and Philadelphia's Lidge for the NL. Kazmir, who had thrown 104 pitches just two days earlier, said he was prepared to go back out for the 16th if the AL failed to score in the 15th.

Arizona's Brandon Webb, who had entered to pitch the bottom of the 14th, had thrown 108 pitches on Sunday and did not think he would throw any pitches in the all-star game.

Both managers were reminded before the game began that the game would be played to its conclusion no matter what, and Commissioner Bud Selig dispatched lieutenants to both dugouts in extra innings to reinforce the message.

"A lot of guys were wondering what was going to happen," Chicago White Sox third baseman Joe Crede said. "Like, maybe we were going to have a home run contest to decide this thing."

What would have happened if Kazmir could no longer pitch? "I don't know, maybe Longoria?" Kazmir said, referring to Tampa Bay teammate Evan Longoria, a third baseman. "He's got a big curveball."

The winning sequence began with Morneau, the newly crowned Home Run Derby champ, singling to shallow center off Lidge with one out. Tampa Bay's Dioner Navarro singled to center. After J.D. Drew -- who later was named the game's Most Valuable Player -- walked to load the bases, Young hit his fly ball to right field.

"I think [Morneau] was going to [tag up] even if it was an infield pop-up," Young said.


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