AL's stars shine

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

DETROIT -- Terry Francona saw and heard some strange things last October.

Not the least of which was his Boston Red Sox recovering from a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees to win the World Series, ending an 86-year drought.

Yet last night, with two out in the ninth, he heard something he thought he never would hear from one of his players.

Francona had brought in Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to seal a 7-5 win for the American League in the 76th all-star game.

"I turned to Johnny Damon after I heard him say 'come on Mo.' I'd never heard that, but I guess it's okay for one night."

Rivera made quick work of Morgan Ensberg as the AL extended its unbeaten streak in the all-star game to nine before 41,617 at Comerica Park.

Take your pick.

Blame the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, or assume that the talent gap between the AL and the NL is akin to the difference in the aroma of a ballpark frank and leftover pizza from the night before.

The NL has not won since a 6-0 win at Philadelphia in 1996.

The Rays first took the field in 1997, and last night had reliever Danys Baez in the bullpen. Unused. The AL can win, even without the Rays help.

Miguel Tejada, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop, made the fast AL start possible. He speared a hard smash off the bat of Carlos Beltran and turned a double play behind Mark Buehrle in the first.

Leading off the second, Tejada greeted John Smoltz with a 0-1 moonshot 436 feet to left. Tejada later knocked in another run on a grounder in the third and was named the game's most valuable player.

"There's not too much to think about hitting against Smoltz so I told myself to enjoy the at-bat," Tejada said. "I don't know how to hit fifth. Me hitting ahead of Vladimir Guerrero? I knew we'd score."

As Foster Hewitt would have said, the score was not indicative of play.

After ex-Blue Jay Chris Carpenter pitched a scoreless first, the AL scored against Smoltz (one run), Roy Oswalt (two), Livan Hernandez (two) and Dontrelle Willis (two) for a 7-0 lead.

Former Tigers greats Al Kaline and Willie Horton, who threw out the ceremonial first pitches, looked to be as effective as any of the NL hurlers.

Who knows how many TV sets had been clicked off by the time Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer off Kenny Rogers in the seventh. The NL added one in the eighth and two in the ninth.

Rogers, who attacked two cameramen before the Rangers' June 29 game at Arlington and was suspended 20 regular-season games, was booed when he was introduced.

PAY THE PRICE

"My job was not to decide whether Kenny made a mistake," Francona said. "He's going to pay a price. My job was to win the game. I'm not going to say our league is better.

"We won."

Three more years and the AL will tie the NL's record for consecutive wins (11), recorded from 1972-82.


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