07/14/2004 1:08 AM ET
Tandem contributes to win
Guerrero gets a hit, scores; K-Rod sets up Rivera
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The Angels at the 75th All-Star Game got exactly what they wanted out of the night.
Vladimir Guerrero and Francisco Rodriguez saw time in the game, they got an American League win that they hope will bring Game 1 of this year's World Series to Anaheim, and they each contributed a little bit to their team's cause.
Guerrero, who came to the Angels in the offseason, got the first chance to shine because he was voted into the game as the starting right fielder.
He descended from the crowd during player introductions for his first All-Star appearance as a member of the AL after four Midsummer Classics as a Montreal Expo.
The game started well for the AL, with Ichiro Suzuki hitting a leadoff double to right field and Ivan Rodriguez following with a triple that gave the Junior Circuit a 1-0 lead.
|David Ortiz is all smiles after homering to drive in Vladimir Guerrero. (Charlie Krupa/AP)
Guerrero strode to the plate with the perfect chance for a quick RBI, and just like he often does, Guerrero swung at the first pitch he saw, a fastball from National League starter Roger Clemens.
In a flash, Guerrero stung a ground ball right at Clemens, who tossed to first base for the easy out.
In his second at-bat, Guerrero came to the plate with one out in the second inning and a runner on first. Facing Milwaukee closer Dan Kolb, he took two balls before hitting a ball hard and high in the air, getting a gasp from the crowd.
The one place in Minute Maid Park where there's a lot of real estate is center field, however, and Lance Berkman had plenty of room to make the catch, rendering Guerrero 0-for-2.
Guerrero went back to his free-swinging ways in his third at-bat, popping out to first base on the first pitch in the fourth against Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano to go 0-for-3.
But AL manager Joe Torre stuck with Guerrero long after all the other starting outfielders were out of the game.
Guerrero rewarded that decision in the sixth, going down to get a Carl Pavano fastball and drilling it to center field for a single. He then scored when David Ortiz launched a colossal two-run homer into the upper deck in right-center field.
The two Dominican natives joked as they walked back to the dugout, with Ortiz tapping Guerrero's pine-tar-encrusted helmet.
"Vladimir didn't campaign to stay in the game," Torre said. "It just worked out that way with what we were doing. But I'm happy that he got a hit. I know he didn't want to leave the game without one."
And then there was Rodriguez, the 22-year-old reliever who was given the honor of setting up legendary closer Mariano Rivera.
Rodriguez entered the game with one out in the eighth inning, taking the ball from Yankees setup man Tom Gordon, and needed only five pitches to retire his two batters.
He got Moises Alou to hit a weak grounder to first baseman Ortiz, who tossed to Rodriguez for the quick out, and he ended the inning by retiring Mark Loretta on a soft popup to shortstop.
After the game, Rodriguez said he had trouble describing everything he had taken in.
"It was great," he said. "An awesome experience, much better than I imagined. To think that in my first All-Star Game I would set up for one of the greatest closers in the big leagues, it's an honor, man."
Also memorable for Rodriguez was the fact that his grandmother, Isabel, was in the stands watching him perform. Isabel raised Rodriguez in Caracas, Venezuela.
Rodriguez struggled to attain visas for Isabel, his two brothers and his sister to come to the game for weeks before getting them earlier in the week.
"I was so happy to have her here and have her share this with me," he said. "It makes it even better."
And so does the home-field advantage in the World Series that the AL took for the second straight year by winning the game, 9-4.
"That's big," Rodriguez said. "I mean, nobody knows who will be in the World Series from the American League, but hopefully it'll be us."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.