NEW YORK — See what happens when you send three Rays to an All-Star Game?
The American League — finally — won the you've-got-to-be-kidding-me contest 4-3 in 15 innings at around 1:35 this morning, extending its unbeaten streak to a record 12 games.
The AL won it when Michael Young's bases-loaded sacrifice fly scored Justin Morneau.
But the Rays, who never had more than one player in a game, had their fingerprints all over it, playing key roles as the last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium seemed like it was never going to end, the longest by time (4 hours, 50 minutes), and matching the longest by innings in history.
"It was everything I thought it would be, and more,'' Rays rookie Evan Longoria said. "Two hours more.''
There was left-hander Scott Kazmir, whom the Rays had hoped wouldn't be used since he threw 104 pitches in six innings on Sunday, ending up the winner, coming in under last-resort terms and working a smooth 15th, allowing only a two-out walk while throwing 14 pitches, and saying he could have handled more.
There was catcher Dioner Navarro. He made a throwing error in the eighth inning that led to the NL taking a 3-2 lead. He struck out twice, and grounded out once. He walked but was thrown out at the plate trying to score the winning run from second in the 11th, done in by a strong throw from Pittsbugh's Nate McLouth. But Navarro also threw out Cristian Guzman at second to end the ninth, after Mariano Rivera struck out Ryan Ludwick, at a key moment. And he singled in the middle of the 15th-inning rally, sending Morneau to second.
There was Longoria. He tied the score with a two-out full-count pinch-hit double in the eighth inning. But then he failed twice with chances to win it, needing just a sacrifice fly, grounding into a forceout with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th, then striking out with the potential winning run on third with one out in the 12th. And he struck out again to end the 14th.
"Everyone played their part,'' Kazmir said. "How about that — it's something we'll never forget.''
Navarro said he "felt really bad" about the errant throw, but felt better when Longoria saved him, driving in the tying run. "Everybody picked me up,'' he said. "It was such a nice feeling.''
Longoria felt bad about not doing more. "I figured it was over each time I came to bat,'' he said. "I had two friggin' chances to win it.''
The AL rally off Philadelphia's Brad Lidge started with singles by Morneau and Navarro and a walk by J.D. Drew.
And Kazmir was just glad he got to help. "It was a bullpen day,'' he said. "So I got my work in.''
AL manager Terry Francona, who was aware of the Rays' concerns, was asked if Kazmir was on a limit. "We were gonna go on hours," he said, "not pitches.''
The early innings were dominated by pitching, as tends to happen in these gatherings, and were relatively boring, but the game ended up featuring a handful of dazzling and memorable plays.
The NL took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Colorado's Matt Holliday homered off the Angels' Ervin Santana, and expanded the lead to 2-0 in the sixth with two singles and a sacrifice fly by Lance Berkman off Oakland's Justin Duchscherer.
The AL came back to tie it in the seventh as Boston's Drew earned cheers — at least momentarily — from the Yankee Stadium sellout crowd that all night had been booing all Sox players. Drew became the 15th player to homer in his first All-Star at-bat on his way to game MVP honors.
And the fans were at it again when Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon came on to pitch the eighth, serenading him with chants of "Mariano, Mariano," in reference to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, and then "Over-rated."
The AL had a prime chance to win in the 10th, when Florida second baseman Dan Uggla misplayed consecutive ground balls. NL manger Clint Hurdle walked Carlos Guillen to load the bases with no outs, and it worked when Grady Sizemore and Longoria grounded into forceouts at the plate, and Morneau was just out at first on a good play by shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Even though they were on the same team, the mixing of Yankees and Red Sox was a primary issue leading up to and during the game.
Sox manager Francona was questioned repeatedly on how he'd use his closer, Papelbon, and the Yankees closer, Rivera. Then Papelbon made headlines — PAPELBUM! screamed the Daily News — when he said he'd like the chance.
Francona never had a lead to work with, but used Papelbon in the eighth, and Rivera in the ninth and 10th, drawing raucous reception from the sellout crowd of 55,632. But Francona added to the theme of the evening with his handling of the Yankees star position players Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, removing both from the game when they were in the field.
Rodriguez, dressed and apparently planning the leave the stadium during the game, said "it was a classy thing" for Francona to do.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]