-- On that October night a few months from now, when the Washington Nationals prepare to open the World Series in some inhospitable American League city, Livan Hernandez might look back with deep regret at the two runs he gave up in Tuesday night's All-Star Game, which contributed to the National League's 7-5 loss at Comerica Park and the loss of home-field advantage for the league's champion in the Fall Classic.
Otherwise, Hernandez's one-inning appearance Tuesday night will be recalled only for warm, fuzzy, historic reasons, as he became the first player to appear in an all-star game with "Washington" across his chest since 1971. The fact it came in a losing effort should not have been a surprise.
The Nationals, known as the Montreal Expos before this season, are now part of a strange and curious recent phenomenon: that of futility in the all-star game on the part of the National League. Tuesday night's loss was the eighth consecutive for the NL, not counting the 2002 game that ended in a 7-7 tie after both teams ran out of pitchers, and which was the impetus for raising the competitive stakes for the contest.
"Nineteen ninety-six?" said Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, Tuesday night's losing pitcher, when reminded of the last time the NL won. "It doesn't make any sense."
A sellout crowd of 41,617 saw the AL sprint to a 7-0 lead -- with Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, later named the game's most valuable player, driving in a pair of early runs -- then hold on to the lead against the NL's late rally.
Nationals closer Chad Cordero, whose job is to protect late leads, was sitting in the NL's bullpen, thinking he might not get to see action in the game, when the bullpen phone rang. Cordero was asked if he wanted to pitch to one batter.
"Hell, yeah!" he replied. And so it was that Cordero entered the game with two outs in the eighth, and struck out Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez on a wicked slider.
"It's pretty cool to be able to say we were the first ones," Cordero said when asked about joining Hernandez as the Nationals' first all-stars. "Nobody else will ever get to say that."
Tejada, who likely would win a poll of fellow players as the best all-around player in the game these days, greeted Smoltz in the bottom of the second with a majestic, 436-foot rocket to left-center that might have had second-deck potential at Baltimore's Camden Yards.
"I just said in my mind, 'I'm starting in the All-Star Game. I'm going to enjoy it,' " Tejada said. "And I think that's why I hit the ball out of the park."
An inning later, Tejada came to the plate to face Houston's Roy Oswalt with one out, runners on first and third and a run already plated on David Ortiz's single off the right field wall. Tejada grounded weakly to shortstop, but David Eckstein's only play was to first, and Tejada had his second RBI, while the AL had a 3-0 lead.
Detroit last hosted an all-star game in 1971, when a combined 20 future Hall-of-Famers suited up -- including the game's MVP, Frank Robinson -- and a young Reggie Jackson blasted a home run off a light tower on the roof at old Tiger Stadium.
That was also the last all-star game in which the Washington Senators were represented -- by Frank Howard. By the following season, the team had been moved to Texas, leaving the nation's capital without baseball until this April.
Hernandez, a workhorse who usually has not even broken a sweat by the fourth inning, strolled in from the bullpen to the mound for the bottom half of that frame to make his little bit of history. But he arrived at the mound only to see the game stopped briefly for a touching tribute to longtime Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell.
Mike Piazza, the NL catcher, spent much of the time conferring with Hernandez on the mound. What followed was not what Hernandez had envisioned. A walk to Jason Varitek and a double down the first base line by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts put runners on second and third with one out, and Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki drove them both in with a soft single into right field.
"The guys hit the ball," Hernandez shrugged, "and that's that."
This was the third all-star game that had home-field advantage in the World Series riding on its outcome -- just in case anyone had forgotten, "This One Counts" was painted in fancy script on the grass in front of the visitors' dugout -- a plot twist that still rankles players.
Whether they make it there, the Orioles had a large say in determining home-field advantage for the World Series. In addition to their offensive exploits, Roberts and Tejada, the Orioles' vaunted double-play combo, also turned a pair of nifty double plays, one of them starting when Tejada stopped a wicked one-hopper from Carlos Beltran to kill a first-inning rally.
And at one point Tuesday, Roberts and Tejada were joined at third base by teammate Melvin Mora. With Mark Teixeira of the Texas Rangers and Mount St. Joseph High at first base, it gave the AL a uniquely all-Baltimore infield.
Much of the pregame attention focused on Texas Rangers left-hander Kenny Rogers, who chose to suit up for the game -- as he was eligible to do -- despite having recently been suspended 20 games for shoving two cameramen during a tirade before a June 29 game. The suspension is under appeal.
Rogers, who has drawn mostly support from Texas fans since the incident, was booed lustily during pregame introductions by the Comerica Park crowd, booed again when he entered the game to pitch the top of the seventh, and booed yet again when he allowed a towering two-run homer to Atlanta's Andruw Jones, the NL's first runs of the game.