NEW YORK — Drawing on pitching from an American League Central rival and borrowing the best closer in baseball history, Jim Leyland took care of business.
The Tigers’ manager drew up a pitching plan that worked perfectly, with two scoreless innings from White Sox left-hander Chris Sale a major component. Miguel Cabrera’s leadoff double in the fourth inning was the biggest hit in an All-Star Game youngsters headlined and pitchers dominated.
Sale was the winning pitcher in the 3-0 victory that Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan locked down. The victory gives the AL home-field advantage in the World Series after a run of three years in which National League teams have won the All-Star Game and subsequently a championship.
Don’t be surprised if Leyland’s Tigers benefit the most. They are positioned aggressively for another long October run as they work to give owner Mike Ilitch a baseball title to go with his four Stanley Cups.
This wasn’t the result a heavily orange-clad crowd of 45,186 wanted to see but it will have the lasting memory of watching Rivera, the all-time leader with 638 career saves and another 42 in the postseason. Fans cheered their first sight of the Yankees closer beginning to warm up as Neil Diamond sang “Sweet Caroline” after the top of the eighth.
Most expected Leyland to save Rivera for the ninth. But he went to him with a 3-0 lead and six outs to go. Did he lose track?
Doubtful. But it was odd.
Leadoff doubles from Cabrera in the fourth inning and Adam Jones in the fifth helped the AL take a 2-0. Patrick Corbin and Cliff Lee induced inning-ending double plays to keep the damage down but Leyland had the edge to go along with the pitching staff set up with Rivera near the end.
Cabrera moved to third on Chris Davis’ line single off the glove of first baseman Joey Votto. Jose Bautista scored him with a sacrifice fly to center fielder Bryce Harper.
Jones, like Cabrera, moved to third on a single after his leadoff double. Troy Tulowitzki knocked down Joe Mauer’s grounder between short and third but he didn’t have a play. J.J. Hardy followed with a grounder to second baseman Brandon Phillips, giving Jones the chance to score.
The AL added a run in the eighth on a two-out RBI double to left field from Glenbrook North product Jason Kipnis.
Sale’s two-inning stint for the AL was the longest in the game. He retired all six batters he faced, throwing 24 pitches (about 100 less than his recent norm).
Sale, working on regular rest after his extended outing last Thursday in Detroit, was extremely sharp. His fastball was clocked as high as 96 and his slider as low as 80. He struck out Carlos Gonzalez and Tulowitzki on sliders, with the Rockies teammates swinging through those pitches.
Harper was the last hitter Sale faced. He fell behind the 20-year-old National 2-0 but and caught a break when he smoked a 95-mph fastball right to third baseman Cabrera.