It started with a diving catch, continued with a pair of historical hits and ended with a classy fond farewell few will forget.
Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game had it all — even a little bit of controversy — as the American League went on to secure home-field advantage in the World Series for the second year in a row with a 5-3 victory over the National League at Target Field.
The Angels’ Mike Trout, one of baseball’s brightest young stars, took home Most Valuable Player honors after plating two runs on two hits, including what turned out to be the game-winning RBI double off Cardinals pitcher Pat Neshek in the fifth inning.
For Marlins fans there wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about.
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Giancarlo Stanton, who put on a power display early in Monday’s Home Run Derby before bowing out in the semifinals, finished 0 for 3 at the plate in his first career All-Star start. Pitcher Henderson Alvarez, named a late injury replacement, didn’t get into the game.
Tuesday wasn’t supposed to be their night anyway. It was Jeter’s.
The Yankees captain, set to retire at the end of the season at age 40, put his name ahead of Carl Yastrzemski and Babe Ruth in the record book when he became the oldest player to record multiple hits in the Midsummer Classic.
In the end, it’s how he got the first hit — a double down the right-field line off Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright in the first inning — that could be tough for some baseball purists and NL fans to stomach.
Wainwright, the NL leader in ERA, told reporters after exiting the game he threw Jeter a fastball over the plate on purpose. The AL ended up scoring three runs off Wainwright in the frame.
“I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots,” Wainwright told reporters. “He deserved it. I didn’t know he was gonna hit a double or I might have changed my mind.”
Wainwright said his only intention was to honor Jeter. In the end, his teammates didn’t seem to have much trouble with what he did.
“I don’t mind it all,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who doubled home the NL’s first run in the second inning. “Derek has done amazing things on the baseball field for a long time, especially playing a demanding position like shortstop. He’s one of a kind.”
Wainwright started the bottom of the first inning by standing as far away from the mound as possible, giving the sellout crowd of 41,048 the opportunity to give Jeter the first of three standing ovations on the night.
Wainwright and his NL teammates took off their gloves to applauded Jeter, too. He took off his batting helmet and tipped it to the crowd.
After his double, Jeter ended up scoring moments later Mike Trout’s triple to right before the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run home run to left field.
Jeter, who opened the game with an impressive diving stop on an Andrew McCutchen infield single up the middle, then led off the fourth with flare to right field for a single off the Reds’ Alfredo Simon.
“He stayed inside the ball like he has for 20 years,” Stanton said of the hit. “Just classic Jeter.”
Jeter went out to his defensive position to open the fourth when Red Sox manager John Farrell sent White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez out to replace him. That opened the door for another round of ovations.
NL players took the moment to applaud Jeter as he hugged AL teammates and coaches once he got back to the dugout. Jeter then came back out for a final curtain call as Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York played over the stadium speakers.
A 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, Jeter finishes his career 13 for 27 in the Midsummer Classic.
The .481 average ranks second all-time. The 13 hits are tied for the fifth most. Only Hall of Famers Willie Mays (24), Stan Musial (20), Nellie Fox (14), Ted Williams (14) have more hits in All-Star history.
Stanton said the way Jeter was honored Tuesday was well deserved.
As for his own experience, Stanton said: “It was amazing man. Still soaking it all in. I kind of get to relax now and realize what happened, take it down to Miami.”