Say hey! What a night

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO -- With one out remaining in the 78th all-star game, you'll never guess what happened.

A real, old-fashioned ball game broke out.

It was a slobber-knocker of a nail-biter with players on the top step of the dugouts.

Francisco Rodriguez got Aaron Rowand to fly to the Blue Jays' Alex Rios in right for the final out with the bases loaded, giving the American League a 5-4 win over the NL in the 78th all-star game before 43,965 fans at AT&T Park.

The AL has not lost since 1996 and will have home-field advantage in the World Series. Barely.

Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer off J.J. Putz to right to make it a one-run game.

"It got a little tense in out dugout," Rios said.

Then Putz walked J.J. Hardy. AL manager Jim Leyland made a double switch, inserting Rios in right and bringing in Francisco Rodriguez to pitch.

Rodriguez walked Derrek Lee and Orlando Hudson to load the bases.

The crowd joined the players, rooting for a base hit to end the NL drought. But Rowand flew out to right to Rios as Rodriguez pointed to the sky as though he had struck out the side. He actually went walk, walk, fly ball.

Did Rios keep the ball? Give it to Rodriguez?

"Oh shoot, I forgot," a sheepish Rios said. "I tossed it into the stands."

Only the double switch got Rios into the game. Had Rios not played it would have been the first all-star game since 1979 a Jay had not appeared. Dave Lemanczyk was selected but did not pitch that year.

The night began with a lengthy tribute to Willie Mays as he slowly walked in from centre with all the all-stars following before Mays, Bonds' godfather, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"That was cool, I got a chance to see him up close and in person," said Rios, who had a Roberto Clemente cap as a child and as a teenager idolized Juan Gonzalez.

Rios finished second to Vladimir Guerrero in the State Farm Home Run Derby on Monday night.

"A little more exposure is always good," said Rios, who earned the praise of Torrii Hunter, Orlando Hudson and Prince Fielder who his efforts on Monday. He led after two rounds only to be beaten 3-2 by Vladimir Guerrero.

"I changed my approach the final round, but I never thought I'd hit that many," said Rios, who hit 19 compared to Guerrero's 17.

"It was good my friends and family were able to see it, it was an honour to be here," Rios said. "I did think I'd might have gotten in a couple of times earlier."

The AL went ahead 5-2 on the strength of homers by Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford and Victor Martinez.

Suzuki hit a two-run, inside-the-park homer, Crawford a solo homer and Martinez a two-run shot.

"He hit more balls out in batting practice than anyone," AL manager Jim Leyland of the Tigers said in reference to Suzuki. "He's going real good right now and I'm not too happy about that -- we open against them (Thursday)."

Suzuki smoked the first pitch he saw from Chris Young off the right-centre field wall. Ken Griffey was in position to play the bounce, but the ball kicked strangely toward the right-field foul line.

The Mariners' lead-off man was able to tip-toe around the bases for an inside-the-parker which gave the AL a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Suzuki later was named the game's MVP.

An inning later Crawford hit a 3-2 pitch from Francisco Cordero to right for a 3-1 lead.

Martinez hit a two-run homer to left against Billy Wagner in the eighth.

"I don't think we dominated," Leyland said when asked about the AL streak. "We get to the ninth and if they get a base hit the NL wins. The nice thing about the game is when you take Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter out of the game, you're putting in Carlos Guillen or Mike Lowell."


Videos

Photos