for this game

Ichiro's inside-the-parker sparks AL to another win

Jul 11, 2007 - 5:51 AM SAN FRANCISCO (Ticker) -- In what was supposed to be a celebration of Barry Bonds, but Ichiro Suzuki and the American League kept right on rolling.

Ichiro hit the first inside-the-park homer in the history of the All-Star Game, Carl Crawford and Victor Martinez hit balls over the fence and the AL survived a ninth-inning scare to post a 5-4 victory over the National League in the 78th edition of the Midsummer Classic.

In front of 43,965 fans - the largest crowd in AT&T Park history - just waiting for hometown hero Bonds to do provide some heroics, the soon-to-be home run king flied out to shallow right in the first inning and to the warning track in left in the third. Both times he had New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes on second base with no outs. He was replaced by Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano after his second at-bat.

"(Tony La Russa) told me I'd get two at-bats. We had three, four left fielders and Tony said we were all going to play so I think it was the right thing to do," Bonds said.

The 42-year-old who is four homers shy of matching Hank Aaron's all-time record, was touched by the reception he received during pregame warmups.

"That was the greatest thing, that was outstanding to be able to do that and have the fans cheer, I can't ever thank them enough and I'll never forget it," Bonds said.

"All I can say is thank you. I'm at a loss for words. It felt good for the first time in a long time. In the early part of my career, All-Star games were pretty good but to go out and be cheered it's a great feeling. I'll be forever grateful.

Ichiro, the Seattle Mariners center fielder, went 3-for-3 and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim closer Francisco Rodriguez retired Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Aaron Rowand with the bases loaded in the ninth for the AL, which ran its unbeaten streak to 11 straight games (a 2-2 tie in 2002). That matched the longest unbeaten run in the series by the NL squad from 1972-82. The last NL win was 8-7 in 12 innings at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh in 1994.

"I don't know about (that dominance thing)," said Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was managing in his second All-Star contest. "We didn't dominate tonight. It went down to the last out. Had Rowand got a hit, they would have won.

"I don't believe in that (domination) stuff. The All-Star Game is a whole different ballgame, it really is."

The National League was denied last season in Pittsburgh when Texas Ranger Michael Young belted a two-run triple in the ninth inning off San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman for a 3-2 victory.

The National League got an RBI single by Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. against Oakland righthander Dan Haren in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead.

The AL finally broke through in the fifth, when Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts led off with a walk against San Diego Padres righthander Chris Young.

One out later, Ichiro lined a first-pitch fastball off a banner on the right-center field wall that took an unusual bounce toward the right field line.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Griffey said. "That's one thing you can't control where it hit. I asked Barry and he said he's never seen that happen. If it hits off the brick where's it going to go? It's going to go towards center. It didn't hit the brick, it hit the corner of the screen and that was it."

Griffey had no chance to retrieve the ball and throw out the speeding Ichiro, who scored standing with his first career inside-the-park homer.

"I thought it was going over the fence, when it didn't I was really bummed," Ichiro said through an interpreter.

"He's an artist with the bat," La Russa said of Ichiro.

Ichiro went 0-for-3 in last season's contest and came in 3-for-15 in his first six All-Star contests.

"This is one game I'll never forget," Ichiro said. "The past six games I didn't play very well. I'm really happy. It was a fun All-Star Game."

It was the third inside-the-park homer since the park opened in 1990.

The junior circuit tacked on a third run in the sixth when Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford drove a 3-2 breaking ball from Milwaukee Brewers closer Francisco Cordero into the right-center field seats.

The NL cut its deficit to 3-2 in the bottom half on a leadoff triple by New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran off Detroit Tigers righthander Justin Verlander and a sacrifice fly by Griffey.

But Cleveland Indians catcher Victor Martinez provided some insurance in the eighth with a two-run pinch-hit home run off a 2-0 pitch from Mets closer Billy Wagner. Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell led off the frame with a single.

Red Sox righthander Josh Beckett, who pitched a scoreless third and fourth innings, was the winner. Minnesota Twins lefthander Johan Santana struck out two and worked around a long foul home run by Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Lee in the seventh and Boston's Jonathan Papelbon stranded a runner at third in the eighth.

Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz retired the first two batters in the ninth but gave up a single to Dmitri Young and a home run to Alfonso Soriano that cut the AL lead to 5-4.

Putz walked Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy following the home run by Soriano and was relieved by Rodriguez, who walked Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee and Arizona Diamondback Orlando Hudson to load the bases before getting Rowand to fly out to right to end the game.

Curiously, La Russa had Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols available, but did not use him in the ninth. Asked after the game why he didn't play, Pujols snapped, "Ask the manager."

"We made it happen, we had the right guy at the plate, said La Russa, who was managing in his sixth All-Star Game. "Aaron got a good swing on it. Just got it up in the air. We put ourselves in a good position and that's all you can do. You just have to tip your cap to the other teams."

Reyes led off the bottom of the first against Haren by grounding the second pitch into center field for a base hit. Two pitches later he swiped second against Haren and Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

After Bonds flied out to right and Beltran struck out swinging, Griffey grounded a 2-2 breaking ball that bounced off the front of the mound and into center field just past the outstretched glove of New York shortstop Derek Jeter, scoring Reyes easily.

The AL got two-out singles by Ichiro and Jeter in the third, but Brewers righthander Ben Sheets retired Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz on a hard liner to right. New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez led off the fourth against Philadelphia Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels with a single, stole second on the next pitch, but after two groundouts to shortstop, Griffey snagged a one-hop single to right by Rodriguez and easily threw out A-Rod at home.

"I don't think I've thrown out anybody this year," Griffey said. "I was in good position and I just tried not to overthrow so I could get an out. He was trying to score and I made a nice throw and cut off the play."

Reyes finished 3-for-4 and Griffey drove in two runs for the National League.

In a fitting tribute prior to the game, the players met Hall of Famer and long-time Giant Willie Mays, who entered through the center field fence. They escorted the "Say Hey Kid" to shallow center, where he delivered a first pitch to Reyes.

Mays then jumped on a 1958 Cadillac El Dorado and was driven around the stadium, throwing baseballs into the stands to the adoring fans.

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