Mariano's All-Star finale highlight for Leyland
KANSAS CITY -- By the time the Tigers' plane landed in Detroit after Tuesday's All-Star Game in New York, it was after 3 a.m. ET on Wednesday, so it took a while for American League manager Jim Leyland to put the Midsummer Classic behind him.
The Tigers skipper was ready for the second half as his team flew to Kansas City on Thursday evening, but he won't forget his All-Star experience.
"I thought we really put on a good show," Leyland said before Friday's second-half opener against the Royals. "I thought it was terrific. Of course we won [3-0], but I thought it was a terrific All-Star Game, maybe one of the best of all-time because of the Mariano Rivera situation and how it scripted out."
The ovation honoring Rivera before the bottom of the eighth inning, in particular, was one of the better moments in All-Star Game history, he thought.
"I don't know how it could've played out any better," Leyland said.
Some of that script was Leyland's design; he had told Rivera ahead of time that he would try to set him up to pitch the eighth inning. Some of that, including the lead itself, came together by fortune.
There was some confusion about how the plan came together for Rivera to have the field to himself for a tribute before the bottom of the eighth. Leyland said he thought Major League Baseball officials had mentioned something about it ahead of time, but he wasn't clear. His bench coach, Gene Lamont, reminded him between innings that they didn't want the players out there yet.
"I did eventually tell them, 'This guy's good, but he does need some fielders,'" Leyland said.
What amazed Leyland was Rivera's ability to handle the tribute and the pressure of his final All-Star appearance, yet still pitch his usual effective inning.
"He got three outs as fast as you could," Leyland said. "After all that stuff, to get three outs like that, like it was just nothing, that amazed me."