NEW YORK — It might have been Mariano Rivera's emotional going-away party, but after getting a first-hand glimpse of the dismal state of offense at Tuesday's All-Star Game, he may want to delay those retirement plans.
The American League suffocated the National League's offense in their 3-0 victory at Citi Field, giving up just three hits, the fewest since 2001, while ending its three-year losing streak, giving the AL home-field advantage in the World Series.
"They call it the year of the K for a reason,'' Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis said of the record-setting strikeout total in the first half, with 15 strikeouts Tuesday. "There's a reason for that. There's good pitching. It's good for baseball.''
As he departed Citi Field's visiting bullpen, Metallica's Enter Sandman rumbled through the stadium sound system to the delight of the crowd — and every All-Star.
"That's why I'm here," said Rivera, the last man who will ever wear Jackie Robinson's No.42 in an All-Star Game. "That's what I love to do."
He came out of the bullpen gate with his entrance song blaring on the speakers and stood on the mound alone. It was nearly a minute before anyone even came onto the field, with players from both teams standing on the dugout rail.
Yes, after four All-Star saves, he got his first hold in 11 years.
"Hey, I'm still not sold it's his last year," Boston Red Sox All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "He's dealing."
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Then again, so was every other pitcher Tuesday night, reminding everyone why the Home Run Derby is such a sensation.
It's the only time fans get to see anyone actually hit. The NL managed four baserunners the entire night, and they barely averted tying the All-Star record of fewest hits in a game.
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"Now they get to see what we have to deal with,'' Detroit Tigers All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter said. "We've got to deal with that pitching all of the time.''
The AL's three runs will hardly be preserved on any highlight reel, but it was their biggest offensive output in four years, scoring just one run in the previous 23 innings.
The scary part for those baseball purists who like to see an occasional run, there's a good chance these same dominant pitchers will be around for quite a while. New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey, 24, was the youngest to start and All-Star Game since Dwight Gooden in 1988, and seven All-Star pitchers were under 25.
"These guys are here for a reason,'' Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer said. "It was just fun catching them. I just kept shaking numbers down there, and they kept saying yes.''
The AL pitching staff was so dominant that until Rivera's entrance in the eighth inning, the only real drama in this game occurred in the first inning when Mets starter Matt Harvey drilled Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano in the right leg. He was forced out of the game with a bruised quadriceps.
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It immediately launched a conspiracy theory on social media. Let's see, Harvey happens to be a Scott Boras client. Cano left Boras for Jay-Z. So, retribution?
Uh, no. Harvey apologized. And Cano accepted.
"Obviously, that was the last thing I wanted to do,'' Harvey said, "go out there and possibly injure somebody. Obviously, I apologized and made sure that he was ok. It definitely was not intentional.''
Said Cano: "I know he doesn't want to hurt anybody. It's just part of the game. Luckily it hit the quad. If it had been something where I couldn't walk, then I would have been worried. Thankfully I was able to walk.''
And, yes, throbbing leg and all, Cano still hung around to the end of the game, wanting to see his teammate one last time, old No. 42.
"For us, to see him out there,'' AL starting pitcher Max Scherzer said, "we all had chills down our back. We got to watch the greatest closer of all time pitching his last All-Star Game.
"You know you're never going to see it again.''
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