MINNEAPOLIS -- Like just about everyone in baseball, Adam Wainwright wanted to give Derek Jeter a retirement gift. Just not quite as nice as the one Jeter took.
When Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the first inning of the 85th All-Star Game on Tuesday night, Wainwright backed off the mound to allow the Yankees' legendary shortstop to soak in a long ovation from the Target Field crowd. Then, after bouncing a pitch in the dirt, Wainwright laid a 90-mph fastball right down the middle.
Next thing he knew, Jeter was standing on second base.
"I was going to give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it," Wainwright said, using baseball vernacular for a fat pitch. "I didn't know he was going to hit a double, or I'd have changed my mind."
Probably not, though. A night that served as Target Field's coming-out party also doubled as Jeter's midseason sendoff, and the future Hall of Famer delivered with a pair of hits, a run scored, and the most goosebump-producing moment of the night: His curtain call to a rousing standing ovation after being removed from the game in the top of the fourth inning.
The American League went on to win 5-3 to earn home-field advantage in the World Series.
Jeter took the field with the rest of the AL stars to start the fourth, but Chicago's Alexi Ramirez soon jogged out to relieve him, ending Jeter's 14th and final All-Star appearance. The shortstops hugged, Jeter tipped his cap to the crowd, took congratulations from the entire AL dugout, and returned to the field for one final salute.
"I'm glad I got to face him," Wainwright said. "It's something I can always say to my kids, that I faced one of the greatest of all time."
More than one great in that inning alone, actually. After Jeter's complimentary double, Mike Trout followed by ricocheting a 3-2 cutter off the right-field wall, and by the time the ball was relayed to the infield, Trout had slid head-first into third base with a triple, scoring Jeter. Wainwright struck out Robinson Cano for the first out, but then made a mistake -- well, it's not a mistake to any other batter -- to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.
"He's a Nintendo-type player. He is so good," Wainwright said. "That ball is on the white-line chalk, inside, off the plate. Nobody keeps that ball fair."
Cabrera kept it fair, but not in play. He drilled a line-drive screamer that cleared the wall in left field by a couple of feet, giving the AL a 3-0 first-inning lead.
"Sometimes, unfortunately you tip your hat to these guys, they're very good. They made a couple of good swings," Wainwright said. "Luckily, we got back in the game."
The National League did, and almost immediately. With Boston left-hander Jon Lester on the mound in the second inning, the NL struck back with two runs. Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez singled to right, and Phillie second baseman Chase Utley clubbed a ball off the top of the wall in right-center, a double that traveled significantly farther than Cabrera's homer. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy followed with another double, and the AL's lead was narrowed to 3-2.
Lucroy wasn't done; he doubled again in the fourth inning, driving home Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon to tie the score 3-3. The AL retook the lead in the fifth inning, however, scoring two runs off Pat Neshek -- the Cardinals' right-handed reliever who was introduced as "from the Park Center Pirates," his suburban Minneapolis high school. Trout was the big bat in that rally, too, smashing a double down the left-field line past Ramirez, a pitch that replays showed might have been foul. It scored A's catcher Derek Norris, and Neshek, who allowed three hits in a third of an inning, plus his first two runs allowed since June 3, was removed for Washington's Tyler Clippard. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve followed with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-3 in the fifth.
But the night belonged to Jeter, from the first play of the game. Andrew McCutchen led off with a hot smash to Jeter's left. He dove, gloved it and made a strong throw to first, but McCutchen beat it by a fraction of a second. Felix Hernandez retired the side without a run, however, and moments later Jeter approached the plate for his first at-bat as the crowd roared.
Wainwright was nowhere near the mound, even when Jeter, restless with the ovation, motioned him to begin.
"I just wanted him to enjoy it. I thought that was his moment," Wainwright said. "I put my glove up and just backed up almost to second base, just saying, 'Dude, I'm not going anywhere until this ovation dies down. ... I'd still be standing out there if they were still cheering."
Wainwright's plan was to groove a hittable fastball, to let Jeter have his moment. "I was hoping it would be the first pitch, and he would take it. And I would say, 'All right, I piped him one and he didn't swing. But I spiked it in the dirt, so I gave him one more shot," Wainwright said. "I thought he was going to hit something hard to the right side for a single or an out. ... I probably should have pitched him a little bit better."
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