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All three Rays play vital role in AL's All-Star win

NEW YORK

As the longest night in All-Star history became early morning, Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir for a long time had nothing to do.

The left-hander was the last man left in the American League bullpen, and knowing that at the Rays' request he wouldn't be used unless absolutely necessary, he tried to keep himself busy, or at least sane.

He walked around, he talked, he tossed a few balls, then he did it all again.

"I didn't know what to with myself," Kazmir said. "Once I was the only person there, I started talking to the security guard, anybody I could find. … I wanted to get a little bit to eat. I was thinking about a cheeseburger."

But as the game went on (and on and on), Kazmir suddenly had something very important to do: pitch the 15th inning and earn the win in the AL's classic 4-3 victory.

It was a game that set all kinds of All-Star records: longest in time (4 hours and 50 minutes) while tying for longest in innings, players used (all 63, including a record 23 pitchers), runners left on base (28) and strikeouts (34).

Also this: most Rays (three).

And all had a key hand in it.

"Everyone did their part, and that's something I think we'll never forget," Kazmir said. "Everything that could possibly happen did happen in this ballgame."

The Rays were concerned because Kazmir had worked six innings (and thrown 104 pitches) in Sunday's game. But he said he felt fine Tuesday, throwing only 14 pitches, and that he was prepared to work at least one more inning (which is good, because AL manager Terry Francona, admitting the game was so tense he had "acne on my forehead" by the end, was planning to use outfielder J.D. Drew next, and National League manager Clint Hurdle was planning on Mets third baseman David Wright).

"This game was going to be played to its conclusion," commissioner Bud Selig said. "What happened in Milwaukee (a 7-7 tie in 2002) will not happen again."

"You don't see that many relief appearances at 1:18," Kazmir said. "By then, it was three days' rest."

But seriously …

"I was already past the nervous part. That was like in the 10th or 12th inning," he said. "Once I got in there, the adrenaline kicked in and I felt really good."

In a way, Kazmir had the easy part. For hours, catcher Dioner Navarro and rookie Evan Longoria were involved in some of the most crucial situations throughout the second half of the game.

Navarro could have been the goat when his throwing error in the eighth led to the NL taking a 3-2 lead. But Longoria made up for it with a two-out, pinch-hit, score-tying double in the bottom of the inning, becoming the first rookie to drive in an All-Star run since the Yankees' Tommy Tresh in 1962.

Navarro made a big play in a huge moment in the ninth, Yankee Stadium electric with Mariano Rivera on the mound, firing to second to complete a strike 'em out/ throw 'em out double play.

Longoria had chances to win it in the 10th and 12th, with runners on third and one out, but failed to deliver even a sacrifice fly.

Navarro then got thrown out at the plate by Pittsburgh's Nate McLouth trying to score the winning run in the 11th. ESPN said that was the first time an outfielder threw out the winning run at the plate in extra innings.

But Navarro came through during the winning rally off Brad Lidge, following Justin Morneau's single with one of his own with one out. Game MVP Drew walked, and Michael Young ended it at 1:37 a.m. with a sac fly.

"It was everything I thought it would be and more," Longoria said. "Two hours more."

"We're just so happy," Navarro said. "I think everyone in the bay area is pleased with what we did. And hopefully this is just the first of many."

Maybe so. But there won't be another like this.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com

All three Rays play vital role in AL's All-Star win 07/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2008 10:55am]
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