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Pudge continues hot hitting
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07/14/2004  1:17 AM ET
Pudge continues hot hitting
All-Star pounds out two hits in victory
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Ivan Rodriguez congratulates Manny Ramirez after scoring on his two-run homer. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
HOUSTON -- Even the All-Star Game can't cool off Ivan Rodriguez.

The Major Leagues' batting leader entering the break and the first player in four years to bat .500 in a calendar month added another figure to his resume. By going 2-for-4 in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic at Minute Maid Park, he became a career .300 hitter in All-Star Games.

Considering how many he's played in -- he's now 10-for-31 in Midsummer Classics -- it's not an easy accomplishment. Rodriguez's start behind the plate for the American League on Tuesday was the 10th of his career, moving him within one of Yogi Berra's record and tying him with Johnny Bench for second.

It wasn't new to him, but it was for the Tigers, who hadn't had an All-Star starter since Cecil Fielder was an injury replacement in 1991. No Tiger had been voted into the All-Star lineup since Pudge's manager, Alan Trammell, in 1988.

No wonder Tigers officials in attendance felt a little bit of pride seeing him out there. With owner Mike Ilitch in town as part of the preparations for next year's All-Star Game in Detroit, he greeted Pudge with a big hug and AL reserve Carlos Guillen with a hearty handshake.

"He's a great guy," Rodriguez said. "We don't see him much, but I know he's watching us playing. I was just very happy to see him here supporting Carlos and myself in the All-Star Game."

Rodriguez didn't take long to show the hitting stroke that has him batting .369 this season. His opposite-field, first-inning RBI triple off the right-field wall was the second hit in a six-run splurge that made the American Leaguers the first team in All-Star history to hit for the cycle in an inning.

2004 All-Star Game

At first, Rodriguez said, he thought the ball had a chance to go out until it stayed on a line.

"I hit it pretty good, but I didn't hit it high," he said. "In that situation, I just wanted to make good contact and try to get the guy in or move the guy over. I was very happy to hit it off the wall. It was very close."

It came against an old foe. In regular-season play, Rodriguez entered the night batting .233 (10-for-43) lifetime against NL starter Roger Clemens. That doesn't include his two hits against Clemens in Game 4 of last October's World Series, including a single that set up another nightmare first inning for the Rocket -- three runs in that game came on Miguel Cabrera's ensuing homer.

"He just got behind in the count," Rodriguez said of Clemens on Tuesday. "He got behind on Ichiro and then Ichiro hit a double, and then he left me a fastball over the plate and I hit it off the wall in right field. It's probably a little bit of momentum in the game."

Tuesday's three-bagger put the American League up for good, marking the second time in three years that a Tigers All-Star has played a role in the decisive run. Two years ago, Robert Fick scored the tying run in the famous 7-7 draw at Milwaukee's Miller Park.

Rodriguez went the other way again in his second at-bat, lining a second-inning single into short right field off Brewers reliever Dan Kolb. He grounded out to third base in the fourth inning, then popped out to right in the sixth before being replaced by Victor Martinez.

His impact wasn't just at the plate. He came to the mound in the fourth inning to help settle down AL reliever and Indians ace C.C. Sabathia, providing the gifted lefty with an All-Star memory.

"It's awesome," Sabathia said. "He came out and he said, 'That was a good pitch you threw. I don't know if we can do anything to get that guy out.' It was an awesome experience.

   Ivan Rodriguez  /   C
Born: 11/30/71
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"You're going to do exactly what he tells you to do. Even throwing to him, I felt like I was throwing hard, but he made it look like I was throwing so soft the way he was catching them and everything. It was a great feeling."

For Guillen, the All-Star experience was more about soaking in the atmosphere. With three other shortstops on the AL team, he was the odd man out, the only position player on either team not to play in the game.

"I'm not disappointed," he said. "In every game there has to be one guy [who sits]. That's the game. Four shortstops."

It was far from a wasted experience. Before he was named to the All-Star team, Guillen and his family planned on flying back home to Venezuela to celebrate his son Alfonso's fifth birthday. Instead, they were able to celebrate it while stargazing in Houston.

"It was a great experience for me, hopefully more to come," Guillen said. "I got to meet a lot of these guys, ask a lot of questions. To me, it's a great honor to be part of this team. I enjoyed every moment -- the Home Run Derby, the game. It's good."

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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