Mixed results don't get to Crew's stars
Brewers contingent experiences ups and downs
SAN FRANCISCO -- J.J. Hardy almost didn't get to bat in the 78th All-Star Game on Tuesday night. Instead, Hardy turned in what was almost a pivotal plate appearance in an extremely tight game.
Hardy, the last of the Brewers' four All-Stars to get in the game, drew a two-out, ninth-inning walk against Mariners closer J.J. Putz to bring the potential winning run to the plate. He advanced two more bases on walks before Aaron Rowand flied out to end the game.
"That was pretty cool of a deal just having the chance, being the tying run out there and having an at-bat that meant something," Hardy said, though he also quipped that "it goes down as no at-bat. I still don't have an official at-bat."
Hardy's walk finished a memorable night for the Brewers' All-Star contingent.
It wasn't a perfect night on the field for the foursome, but it was hard to complain about their experience at AT&T Park.
Ben Sheets tossed a scoreless third inning, Prince Fielder walked and was charged with an error, and Francisco Cordero permitted a homer in the sixth for the National League. The game capped off a memorable couple of days for Milwaukee's representatives, who relished the chance to show their stuff in the Midsummer Classic.
"It's been great, just being able to share this experience," said Fielder. "Especially for me and J.J. [Hardy], since it's our first time, it's been awesome. I've just been hanging out and having fun, hanging out with guys like Barry [Bonds] and Ken [Griffey Jr.]."
Sheets was enjoying his third trip to the All-Star Game and Cordero his second -- but his first time actually getting in the game. For Fielder and Hardy, this was the first of what they hope will be numerous All-Star selections.
"It's been unbelievable," Hardy said. "It's been a year when I didn't know what was going to happen, coming off my injury last year. And then to be here at this time, and have the team winning the way it's doing, and to be here with Prince, it's awesome. It's a lot of fun."
Fielder found himself in the middle of things quickly, and not in a good way. He was charged with an error on David Ortiz's grounder to second base, but was bailed out when Alex Rodriguez hit into an inning-ending force play. Fielder made up for it three innings later when he leapt to corral a throw from shortstop Jose Reyes, quite possibly saving an error.
At the plate, Fielder walked against starter Dan Haren to lead off the second inning, but he was stranded. He got ahead of Josh Beckett with a 2-0 count in the fourth, but flied out to center field and was removed for Derrek Lee in the next half-inning.
Sheets pitched an unusual third inning, with two nubbers going for base hits and two well-struck balls falling for outs. Placido Polanco led off the third with a grounder to shortstop. Pinch-hitting for Haren, Manny Ramirez lofted a deep fly into the right-field corner that Griffey tracked for out No. 2.
However, Ichiro Suzuki kept the inning alive by golfing a bloop single into left field, and Derek Jeter dribbled a soft grounder up the middle for another two-out hit.
"He's Ichiro," Sheets said of the All-Star Game MVP. "That's what he does."
The hits put Sheets in a dicey situation -- Ortiz at the plate with an RBI opportunity. But although "Big Papi" hit an absolute laser beam of a line drive, it was right at Griffey for the third out. That was it for Sheets, as he was lifted in favor of Cole Hamels in the fourth. He threw a total of 14 pitches, nine of which went for strikes.
"I didn't think [Ortiz's ball] was trouble," Sheets said. "It's an All-Star Game. I know somebody's going to catch it. If it was well-struck, it would be freaking floating."
Cordero induced a pair of harmless fly balls from Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero to start the sixth inning. However, at the end of a nine-pitch battle with the Devil Rays' Carl Crawford, Cordero got too much of the plate and Crawford crushed a solo homer to right field to stretch the AL's lead to 3-1. Cordero got out of the inning when Carlos Guillen grounded out.
"It's an All-Star Game, first time, and you've got to face A-Rod and then Vladdy next. You get them out and it's a good feeling," Cordero said. "And then you just make one mistake. That was that pitch. I made one mistake, and he hit it out.
"But I feel pretty good. I think I pitched good, and the more important thing is that my arm feels great. I'm healthy. This is over and I'm ready to go in the second half."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.