Trio of All Stars
July 14, 2009

The Twins’ holy trinity of Joe Nathan (the father), Joe Mauer (the son), and Justin Morneau (the holy ghost) as usual were invited to take part in what Major League Baseball (MLB) likes to call its “Summer Classic,” otherwise known as the All-Star Game.

The threesome stand out so conspicuously from their teammates that little thought was given to placing any other Twin on the roster. In fact, the only other way a Minnesota player, say Nick Blackburn, could make the All-Star Game roster would be if the holy trinity did not exist. Then, the rule that states each major league team must have at least one representative would be invoked. More importantly, the Twins do not posses all-star players other than Mauer, Morneau, and Nathan. It’s similar to a tall building with a magnificent peak and a rotten foundation. The pitching staff, with the exception of Nathan in the pen, is overrated, especially by local writers. On any given day, the starting lineup will contain some dramatically erratic players such as Nick Punto, Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, and Alexi Casilla. Third baseman Joe Crede and designated hitter Jason Kubel are adequate performers. Denard Span is a work in progress. Triple-A Rochester has failed to come up with adequate replacements at key spots, and general manager Bill Smith is reluctant to pull the trigger on trades.

What’s wrong with the Twins could very well be summarized in the team’s lack of success against the New York Yankees this year. After being swept in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium earlier, the Twins vowed revenge when the Bombers returned to the Metrodome prior to the All-Star break. Unfazed, New York won this series by the scores of 10-2, 4-3, and 6-4. Had Minnesota been able to win three of seven from the Yankees this year, the Twins’ record would be 48-39, the same as the Central Division’s first-place team Detroit. But ever since Ron Gardenhire took over as Minnesota’s manager, all his team members need to do is to look across the way and note that the other team is wearing navy blue caps with an intertwined “NY” on the front, and the Twins turn to jelly.

Meanwhile, the American League extended its unbeaten streak in the annual All-Star Game to 13 years with a 4-3 win over the National League in front of 46,860 spectators at new Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

First-time All-Stars Adam Jones and Curtis Granderson delivered the winning run for the AL, which will again have home-field advantage in this year’s World Series, and All-Star veterans Nathan and Mariano Rivera pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Jones’ sacrifice fly with one out in the top of the eighth inning scored Granderson, who had tripled, for the winning run.

The National League team led early and for much of the game, but it couldn’t bring home the victory in the late innings. This was the second consecutive year the AL won on a sacrifice fly. The AL hasn’t lost an All-Star Game since 1996, a 6-0 National League victory at the now-abandoned Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

The NL took a 3-2 and held it until the fifth inning, when Mauer lined a two-out double to left field against Chad Billingsley. That scored Derek Jeter, who had beaten out a potential double-play ball one batter earlier.

“I had three at-bats against three pitchers, and they’re the best in the game,” Mauer said. “So I tried to stay short. He threw me a cutter outside, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”

Meanwhile, the AL pitchers were locking down as tight as security for President Barack Obama, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. AL pitchers retired 18 consecutive batters from the second into the eighth inning, the second longest such streak in All-Star Game history. Mark Buehrle, Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson, Felix Hernandez, and Jonathan Papelbon all pitched perfect innings before the NL threatened against Nathan in the eighth.

The Twins “lights out” closer got the first two outs of the inning, but walked Adrian Gonzalez. Orlando Hudson singled off ex-Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett’s glove, bringing up the dangerous Ryan Howard. Nathan got Howard to swing at a slider for the strikeout, ending the last real threat for the home team.

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