07/13/2005 1:27 AM ET
DETROIT -- Mariano Rivera was told before Tuesday night's All-Star Game that he would only pitch for the American League if there was a save situation in the ninth inning.
The AL entered the final frame with a four-run lead, but after Bob Wickman and B.J. Ryan were hit for a pair of runs, Boston manager Terry Francona called on Rivera -- the closer for his division nemesis -- to save the day for his All-Star team.
Rivera did just that, striking out Houston's Morgan Ensberg for the final out of the AL's 7-5 victory over the National League at Comerica Park.
"I heard Johnny Damon say something like, 'Come on Mo,' and I looked at him and said, 'I bet I never would have heard you say that,'" Francona said. "It was OK. For one night, it was pretty cool."
Rivera was one of three Yankees to play in the game, joining teammates Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. The AL extended its unbeaten streak to nine Midsummer Classics, going 8-0-1 in the process.
"Tonight was a great game for the American League," A-Rod said. "To represent the city of New York and the Yankees, it's exciting. It was also an opportunity to mentally relax your brain a little bit and get ready for the second half."
A-Rod got the start at third, his ninth turn as an American League All-Star, including the last two as the league's starter at the hot corner.
Batting second for the AL, A-Rod lined a single to left in the first inning, giving the league its first baserunner of the night. A-Rod walked in his second at-bat, moving to third on David Ortiz's single and scoring on an RBI groundout by Miguel Tejada, who won MVP honors.
A-Rod flied out to center in his third and final at-bat, finishing the night 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
Rodriguez was sporting bright white shoes and wristbands, paying homage to some of the baseball heroes of his youth.
"I do it because of Keith Hernandez, who was one of my favorite players growing up. He and Gary Carter used to always wear white," Rodriguez said. "I told myself, if I ever made it to the big leagues I was going to wear white shoes."
Rodriguez has been through the All-Star process so many times, but he still has fun each summer, as the faces in the clubhouse change around him. His favorite part? Hanging out with his AL teammates.
"It's fun to hang out with the greatest players in the world, socialize, talk about the first half and get ready for the second half," Rodriguez said. "But we have to take it very seriously. We saw how much it mattered last year. Boston dominated the World Series, and part of that was the home-field advantage. Players here know what's at stake."
Sheffield didn't get a chance to make a big impact on the game, as he pinch-hit for Brian Roberts in the sixth inning, grounding into a double play. Sheffield remained in the game in right field, but did not come to bat again.
"I'm just glad to be here, man," Sheffield said. "That's enough for me. To be here is all that I can ask."
Like A-Rod, Sheffield was making his ninth trip to the All-Star Game, so he's happy to let the first- and second-timers dominate the playing time.
"I enjoy watching guys from the bench," Sheffield said. "You get to go out there, look at all the talent and be a cheerleader."
Just a few lockers to the left of Rodriguez and Sheffield were those of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek, three of the five All-Stars from the rival Red Sox.
Both Sheffield and A-Rod said they didn't find it uncomfortable to be sharing close quarters with their heated rivals, as the players all understood that the All-Star experience was about having a good time.
"I have a lot of respect for all of these guys; Ortiz, Manny, Pedro [Martinez] when he was there, all of them," Rodriguez said. "It's kind of weird that they're protecting me in the lineup. It's ironic."
"This is supposed to be fun, so I try to make it fun," Sheffield said. "When everything gets back for real, we'll be for real. For now, this is fun."
Rivera, who has saved 20 consecutive games since blowing two opportunities against the Red Sox in the first week, entered the game with a two-run lead and two outs in the ninth. He struck out Ensberg for the final out, securing home-field advantage for the AL for a third consecutive year.
"That was great," Rivera said. "I threw four pitches, got the save and we won the game. It was fun."
"That was beautiful," A-Rod said of Rivera's outing. "I was hoping he wouldn't have to pitch, but only four or five pitches, that's not too bad."
Now, the Yankees will head to Boston, trying to overtake the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. The Yankees benefited from home-field in the World Series in 2003, while the Red Sox got that advantage in 2004. Both clubs will begin their quest for the 2005 Fall Classic on Thursday at Fenway Park.
"Hopefully we can play the way we were playing at the end of the first half," Rivera said of the Yankees, who won seven of their last eight games before the break. "We have to keep it going. If we go there and play the good baseball we've been playing, we'll be fine."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com.