Baseball Insider

Wouldn't you know it? A great Yankee stole the night at Mets' park

It might be the Mets' midsummer showcase, but it turns out to be Mariano Rivera's show.
It might be the Mets' midsummer showcase, but it turns out to be Mariano Rivera's show. (USATSI)

NEW YORK -- This was supposed to be a Mets night, the night of their season, in fact.

Matt Harvey, their young and confident hurling wunderkind, was starting in the All-Star Game at beautiful Citi Field.

David Wright, the clean-cut captain of the Mets, was batting cleanup.

Tom Seaver, the Mets' lone Hall of Famer, was here to throw out the first pitch.

Everything was set to celebrate the Mets' gorgeous and (relatively) new stadium and their two mega stars -- the kid fireballer and the beloved prime-time positional star.

Watch the love, Mets higher-ups told us.

Not bad. Harvey got a nice ovation after two scoreless innings. Wright got a couple ovations, then had a hit, one of three for the National League.

But, in reality, in the end, this turned out to be a Yankee's night. Such is life as a Met.

The Yankees have dominated this town ever since Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera rolled in, winning five World Series championships while the Mets wasted money on free-agent signings gone bad, battled a series of heart-breaking injuries and struggled to win a back page or two in this town where it's hard to demand attention.

The set-up looked pretty good for the Mets to have their seasonal highlight. But the back page goes to the Yankees. Again.

The one memorably historic moment of the American League's 3-0 victory belonged to the great Mariano Rivera, who has announced he is retiring at year's end, finishing a career that it is as dignified as it is spectacular. When he entered the game in the eighth inning (AL manager Jim Leyland didn't want to take any chances that they might blow their 3-0 lead and Rivera wouldn't get in at all, apparently), the crowd treated Mariano like royalty, which he is.

In consolation, if the Mets were going to abdicate the evening at their own home park, Rivera would be their choice for the honors. "I'm a huge fan,'' Wright said. He's a fan to the point where Wright called Rivera to his side at the red-carpet event in the afternoon specifically to tell him how much he meant to him and the game.

Wright called the three days a "whirlwind'' and said it all exceeded his expectations. But if someone from the other team, even the other team in town, was going to steal the night, it might as well be Mariano.'

"You want to try to win the game. But to be part of history ...'' the classy Wright said. "I had a terrific day ... as far as savoring the moment and obviously witnessing the Mariano sendoff. It will be great to tell my kids and grandkids one day that I was a part of history.''

The ovation for Rivera was the best of the night, maybe one of the best of his lifetime, and Mariano soaked it up. Alone.

The other American League players stayed in the dugout so the total focus would be on the great reliever, who was acting as a set-up man for the first time since his special 1996 season. Leyland set up the moment, and Rivera the game.

Rivera tipped his cap, and turned around, facing each section, and showing his appreciation for the adulation from the cross-town Mets fans before he threw a predictable 1-2-3 inning (Rivera is even more dominate against NL hitters since they never see that unhittable cutter of his).

"It was great, it was special,'' said NL All-Star Carlos Beltran, the ex-Met, who received a warm reception. "He had to feel emotional. Even though this [Queens] is not a Yankee town, it was beautiful. He deserves that for what he represents in baseball.''

The Yankees won a World Series in Queens 13 years ago, just across the parking lot, where Shea Stadium stood. But this is another wonderful snapshot for Rivera's amazing storybook career.

Joe Nathan closed out the game for Rivera and the AL team, keeping to the local theme. Nathan -- a product of Stony Brook University on Long Island -- got Pedro Alvarez -- a graduate of Horace Mann High School, in Riverdale, the Bronx -- on a popout to end things.

But, in the end, the locals who won the night were the Yankees, from another part of the Bronx. They even got the sympathy points, as Robinson Cano suffered a bruised quad when hit by a 97-mph heater from Harvey. X-rays were negative, but he had to leave the game. Cano hopes to be back playing Friday, and heaven knows, the depleted Yankees need him.

The most indispensable Yankee over their glorious run, though, has to be Rivera, who has become the most admired baseball player of this generation even though he (usually) throws just one inning at a time. This one was a routine, scoreless eighth inning on a night full of scoreless innings for the National League.

But it was enough for him to be named the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP.

When it was time to present the award, commissioner Bud Selig excitedly told Rivera he was so proud about the way that he has represented baseball off the field -- a marked contrast from steroid guy Melky Cabrera taking the honor last year in Kansas City a few weeks before his failed test and a scheme to go with it was revealed.

"It's been a privilege," Rivera told the crowd, as they soaked up his greatness of the Yankee who stole the Mets' show.

For all of us.

 
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