Miggy's mojo motivates AL in Motown
O's shortstop homers to lead multinational effort in All-Star Game
DETROIT -- The 76th All-Star Game will go down as a different type of Midsummer Classic, a celebration of the increasing global popularity of baseball and the international superstars who fill more and more big-league rosters every season.
But with a 7-5 victory over the National League before 41,617 in Comerica Park on Tuesday night, the American League proved it's still rockin' in the free world.
"Tonight was a great game for the American League," AL third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "We brought a lot to the table. ... We had guys that could hit the ball out of the ballpark at any time, in any direction. It was a fun game for us."
It should have been, because the AL won its third straight All-Star Game and by rule its third straight home-field advantage in the World Series. The Junior Circuit also ran its undefeated All-Star streak to nine. The NL hasn't won since 1996.
And a day after Major League Baseball announced the March 2006 debut of the World Baseball Classic, several players who are expected to be key participants in the 16-country tournament shined on the game's biggest midseason stage.
Leading that charge was Dominican superstar shortstop Miguel Tejada of the Baltimore Orioles, who started the party with a homer, got the defense rolling with a Gold Glove-caliber play, and walked away with the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. Tejada is the fifth Latin American-born player among the last eight MVP winners.
Tejada kicked off the AL's fiesta and helped induce another NL siesta with his glove.
With Monday night's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby champion, Bobby Abreu, on first base for the NL after a leadoff single in the first inning, Carlos Beltran scorched an offering from AL starter and winning pitcher Mark Buehrle up the middle for what appeared to be a single.
But Tejada ranged a few feet to his left, knocked the ball down and flipped it to his Orioles teammate, Brian Roberts, while on the ground for a rally-stifling, highlight-reel double play.
"I think more than the home run, I think the play he made defensively in the first inning, to me, that relaxes Buehrle," AL manager Terry Francona said. "The whole game, I think, changes on that. That's a heck of a play."
It shifted the momentum right into the AL dugout and right into Tejada's wheelhouse.
Tejada got the scoring going with a no-doubter of a solo shot off Atlanta Braves ace John Smoltz, crushing an 0-1 fastball 436 feet into the left-field seats for his first career All-Star Game home run.
"I tried to make the best pitches I could against a great lineup," said Smoltz, who took the loss while pitching in his hometown. "One got away."
Dominican slugger David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox made it 2-0 in the third with an RBI single off the wall in right field against Roy Oswalt.
Tejada pushed another run across in that inning with an RBI fielder's choice, and Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners kept the pressure on with a two-run single in the fourth against Livan Hernandez.
"I think the game is going in the direction of more international players playing in the Major Leagues," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "We're not quite there yet. It's going to get more globalized."
Fair enough, but the global baseball power of the United States wasn't about to be left out of the AL's All-Star party.
After two opening shutout innings, the AL went from Buehrle to burlier, giving the ball to Angels ace Bartolo Colon, a big man who tossed a big third inning before yielding to Johan Santana, Matt Clement and Jon Garland. All three kept the NL quiet through the sixth while the AL did more damage.
Batting right-handed, switch-hitting Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira belted an opposite-field, two-run home run off Dontrelle Willis in the bottom of the sixth and added an intriguing piece of trivia to a game that had become a rout.
Teixeira led the AL in home runs at the All-Star break with 25, but every one of them had been hit left-handed over a course of 267 at-bats.
"I just felt comfortable in the box," Teixeira said. "Hopefully this will start some good things for me right-handed."
While Teixeira picked a special time to get out of his right-handed slump, the NL picked another bad time to try to get out of its All-Star slump, and the sheer power of the AL lineup might have had a lot to do with that.
Reigning AL Most Valuable Player Vladimir Guerrero batted sixth. A-Rod, an annual 50-homer threat, set the table from the two-hole. Teixeira checked in at No. 7 on the lineup card.
"It's easy to put yourself ninth without even blinking an eye," said AL catcher Jason Varitek, who batted eighth.
Added AL batting leader Brian Roberts, who batted ninth: "When you've got Vladdy batting sixth, what else do you need to say?"
Even though the AL built the big early lead, the game still managed to provide a few dramatic moments.
In the middle of the fourth inning, the home-team Tigers staged a moving video tribute to their longtime, Hall of Fame radio man Ernie Harwell, which had the Comerica faithful and the players in the AL dugout out of their seats for a standing ovation.
And in the top of the seventh, the AL opened the bullpen gate for Kenny Rogers, the Texas Rangers pitcher who caused controversy and garnered a 20-game suspension for a recent physical confrontation with television cameramen.
Rogers was booed by the crowd and tattooed by Andruw Jones, the Major League leader in homers at the All-Star break with 27 for the Atlanta Braves.
Jones plastered a Rogers offering into the nether regions of the left-field bleachers to get the NL on board in the seventh and cut the AL's lead to 7-2.
Rogers, who played the game while his suspension is under appeal, kept his head up when swarmed by media throughout the long weekend.
"I know I've earned the right with the way I've pitched, but there's a lot of other stuff going on," Rogers said after Tuesday's game. "I didn't want this to be a distraction and I hope it hasn't been."
It wasn't. The NL continued its comeback in the eighth when Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI fielder's choice off Joe Nathan to make it 7-3, and the Senior Circuit added two more in the ninth on a Luis Gonzalez double against B.J. Ryan and a Carlos Lee fielder's choice.
If things seemed to be getting interesting, that ended when closer Mariano Rivera took the hill for the final out, closing out his second straight All-Star Game and preserving the AL's streak and Tejada's big night.
"I'm going to keep working hard and let's see if I can keep up my game, the way that I play," said Tejada, who leads all active Major Leaguers with 843 consecutive games played.
"I've got to keep playing hard, and if the guys continue to give me all that I've been getting, I've got to take it."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.