By TYLER KEPNER
The New York Times
Published: July 16, 2008
NEW YORK - JULY 15: American League All-Star J.D. Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox hits a two-run-home run in the seventh inning during the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
It was only dugout chatter. But if Scott Kazmir had had to throw a few more pitches early Wednesday morning, Evan Longoria told his teammates, he could have replaced him on the mound in the All-Star Game.
"High school was the last time I pitched," said Longoria, the rookie third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays. "That would have been wild."
It never happened, because the All-Star Game ended – finally – after 290 minutes and almost 15 full innings of baseball. The American League won, 4-3, and a record 63 players participated, all except Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants, who was not at Yankee Stadium because of flulike symptoms and dehydration.
"The starters had it easy," said the Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau, who scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Michael Young. "Five innings and they were all out of there. Every at-bat, it seemed like there was a chance to win the game. It was pretty intense. Guys were snapping when they made outs."
Maybe so, but if the game had lasted much longer, Commissioner Bud Selig might have been the one to snap. Six years ago in his Milwaukee hometown, the All-Stars played to a 7-7 tie in 11 innings when the teams ran out of pitchers.
Now that the winning league in the All-Star Game gets home-field advantage in the World Series, there could be no tie. Kazmir had thrown 104 pitches on Sunday, and the Rays had asked Red Sox Manager Terry Francona not to use him. But there were no other pitchers left.
NEW YORK - JULY 15: American League All-Star Justin Morneau #33 of the Minnesota Twins slides in to home in the bottom of the 15th inning to win the game for the American League 4 to 3 during the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
"I think Terry was a little hesitant to throw him out there in the first place, but he had to go, because he was our last guy, our last resort," Longoria said. "If he had gone 10 or 15 more that next inning, he was done."
Kazmir had watched from the bullpen as 10 relievers were called ahead of him. By the time George Sherrill trotted in, in the 12th inning, he was all alone.
"I started talking to security guards, just anybody I could find," Kazmir said. "It felt really weird, being all by myself. I'm not used to being there at all."
Kazmir, who missed the first month of the season with elbow problems, threw 14 pitches in the top of the 15th and said he felt strong. Francona said he was not on a pitch count, but he guessed that J.D. Drew might have pitched if he had needed to use a position player.
"He's been bugging me for a long time," Francona said, "and we were getting close."
Drew said he could tell that Francona and his staff were struggling with their pitching options as the game went on. Longoria said he would have been a natural choice, because he was already in the designated hitter's spot. And Drew would have raised no objections if Francona had asked.
NEW YORK - JULY 15: American League All-Star Scott Kazmir #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches in the 15th inning during the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
"If he would have told me to do it, that's what I would have done," said Drew, who was named most valuable player for going 2 for 4 with a two-run homer. "I would have thrown some stuff up there. I got a little sneaky stuff here and there. I don't know if I would have got anybody out, but …."
It never came to that, of course, largely because of the offense from Drew and Morneau. In the seventh inning, Morneau greeted Edinson Volquez with a double and scored on Drew's game-tying home run. In the 15th, Morneau delivered again as the leadoff man, blooping a single off Brad Lidge.
With one out, Dioner Navarro singled Morneau to second. A walk to Drew loaded the bases for Young, who knew what would happen as soon as he lofted a fly to medium right field.
"If I had popped up to second, he would have probably tried to score," Young said. "We were trying anything at that point to push a run across. I knew he was going to go; I was hoping it was deep enough.
"This is an All-Star Game, so you know everybody can play. Corey Hart's out there, I'm like, 'He's got a chance to throw somebody out.' It wasn't like you could pick a weak link. Everyone out there does things and does things well."
Hart let his throw hang in the air just long enough for Morneau to chug down the line with the winning run. Morneau is 6 feet 4 inches and 205 pounds and better known for his power, which he used to win the Home Run Derby on Monday. This was the rare chance to win a game with his legs. He was happy to do it, and even happier that the Twins do not play again until Friday.
"This is amazing," Morneau said. "I'm probably going to sleep for the next two days."