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'Nervous' Koji fans one in All-Star Game debut

Lester yields two runs in second inning of American League's victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even for a man who closed out last year's World Series with a strikeout, the spectacle of the All-Star Game seemed daunting.

So Koji Uehara made it easy for manager John Farrell. The righty told Farrell he didn't want the ball in the ninth inning.

"I asked the manager not to be in that kind of situation," Uehara said.

Farrell, managing his first All-Star Game as a reward for the Red Sox making it to the World Series last year, played to the home crowd and handed the save opportunity to Twins closer Glen Perkins. The righty converted with a 1-2-3 ninth to finish off a 5-3 victory for the American League.

"I thought it was fitting that Glen Perkins and [Twins catcher Kurt] Suzuki are pairing up and teaming up to close this out," said Farrell. "I felt it kind of worked in our favor. It fell in our laps a little bit to showcase two hometown guys and send this game off the right way."

In the first All-Star appearance of Uehara's career, he faced one batter, striking out Devin Mesoraco to finish the sixth inning.

"I wasn't able to enjoy it," Uehara said through an interpreter. "I was so nervous."

But those nerves didn't impact Uehara's performance, albeit an abbreviated one.

"First pitch: fastball, then three splits," said Uehara. "That was it. I had enough fun there."

It was the type of arsenal Farrell is used to seeing from his closer.

"Against a star studded lineup, Koji does what he has done so much, and that's come in and get a key strikeout," said Farrell.

Ace lefty Jon Lester -- Boston's other All-Star -- was the first pitcher that Farrell used out of the bullpen. The lefty came on for the second inning with a 3-0 lead, but the National League took some healthy cuts against him.

After Giancarlo Stanton popped up to second, Aramis Ramirez rifled a single up the middle. That set up Chase Utley for a belt-high, 93-mph fastball that landed high off the wall in center for an RBI double. Jonathan Lucroy followed by ripping a Lester cutter to deep left for an RBI double that chipped the AL lead to 3-2.

"It was all right, you know? Obviously you're coming in here, you're facing the best players in the world and just trying to get outs," said Lester. "You're so used to going through the scouting reports and advance meetings and this and that. All of a sudden, you get out there and you're throwing to a guy you just met a day ago.

"It's like, 'Hey, all right, let's see what we can do.' I made a couple mistakes and obviously they're here for a reason. They put some good swings on balls. Luckily I got out of there still with the lead. That was the main thing. I had fun. It was a good time."

Lester settled down to get Carlos Gomez on a foul popup to the catcher and Andrew McCutchen on a flyout to center. Over the one inning of work, Lester threw 22 pitches while allowing three hits and two runs.

It was the third trip to the All-Star Game for Lester, but the second time he got to pitch. Lester pitched a scoreless inning in the 2010 game in Anaheim.

For Farrell and both Red Sox All-Stars, celebrating Derek Jeter's last Midsummer Classic added to the overall experience.

Farrell helped set the stage for the venerable Yankees captain's exit from the game when he had Alexei Ramirez replace him at shortstop just prior to the top of the fourth.

"In talking with Joe Torre and others, he kind of got my thoughts on how we looked to highlight Derek when he came out of the game, where he might hit in the lineup. We tried to get at least two at bats for him," said Farrell. "We picked either the fourth or the fifth inning when we went on the field for defense to highlight his replacement. You know what? He has a flare for the dramatic, as we know. Two base hits and scores the first run, it worked out pretty well."

This was a rare occasion when the Red Sox were rooting for Jeter to get hits.

"We've played so often against him. You just always see No. 2 out there at shortstop and you know he's going to be at the top of the lineup and give you good at-bats and be Jeter," said Lester. "I don't think it's really sunk in for a lot of people that this is it for him. Hopefully he got to enjoy today and he'll enjoy the rest of the second half."

But it was more than just Jeter. For Boston's All-Star contingent, this represented a chance to share a clubhouse and dugout with the best in the game.

"Any time you get to run out on this field with these guys, it humbles you. It makes you just enjoy this even more," said Lester. "Getting to be a part of this, getting to be in the clubhouse with these guys, you just walk around the room, you've got future Hall of Famers all over the place. It's an awesome experience that I definitely always remember."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, Koji Uehara