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07/12/06 1:11 AM ET
Hoffman finds final out elusive
Padres closer takes blown save, loss in All-Star Game
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Padres closer Trevor Hoffman came to the Steel City determined to make a memory to last a lifetime.
This was not what he had in mind.
"You're never going to forget these things, the type of stage we're playing under," Hoffman said in the aftermath of one of the deepest disappointments of his great career, coughing up a save that turned into a 3-2 American League All-Star Game victory Tuesday.
"That elusive 27th out is hard to come by sometimes," he said. "You've got to slam the door with two outs, and I didn't get the job done. I let a lot of people down."
Asked by manager Phil Garner to close out the All-Star Game and give the National League its first triumph since 1996, Hoffman threw 13 pitches in the ninth inning -- all for strikes.
He couldn't have thrown a ball if he wanted to, which, it turns out, was precisely the case.
An 0-2 fastball to Michael Young "caught too much of the plate," Hoffman lamented. The Rangers' dynamic infielder ripped it all the way to right-center for a triple to deliver the tying and go-ahead runs at PNC Park, preserving the AL's dominance of the Midsummer Classic at 9-0-1 over the past 10 shows.
"I was prepared," Hoffman said. "It was great that Phil gave me the honor to finish. I felt great. My arm was loose. I threw strikes. Sometimes that's what happens."
Hoffman couldn't have been more accurate -- unfortunately.
The man with 460 career saves, second in history to Lee Smith's 476, got two quick outs on tappers back to the mound by Jermaine Dye and Miguel Tejada. The big crowd leaned forward, anticipating the grand finale.
It never came.
Paul Konerko slapped a single through the hole to left with third baseman Miguel Cabrera hugging the foul line protecting against extra bases. If the young Marlin is at normal depth, the game most likely is over.
Up stepped Troy Glaus, the former Angels slugger familiar with Hoffman from Interleague Play and Spring Training exercises in Arizona.
"Just because I've faced him probably more than anyone in here," Glaus would say later, "it doesn't make my job any easier. Look at his track record -- he's close to the all-time record for saves.
"He threw a changeup and I was fortunate he got part of the plate, down in the zone."
Glaus rocketed the ball into the left-field corner, and it jumped into the stands for a ground-rule double. Running for Konerko, Jose Lopez had to stop at third.
If that was a break for Hoffman, none was forthcoming in his confrontation with Young.
When the count went to 0-2, Young fouling off a changeup, Hoffman agreed with catcher Brian McCann's choice of a fastball, sensing Young was moving up in the box in anticipation of the changeup.
Not so, Young would say.
"The last thing I'm thinking about is clogging my mind with too many things," Young said. "He can change his pattern. I've got too much respect for him to think I've got anything figured out. I'm just trying to hit something hard."
Hoffman has made his living with the changeup, and he's only human. Naturally, he'll always wonder what would have happened if he had gone with his bread-and-butter.
"I'm not going to beat myself up over the fact I could have gone to my best pitch," Hoffman said. "He's a tremendous hitter. That's why he's a [former] American League batting champion. The pitch just caught too much of the plate.
"I don't know, maybe I should have gone eight straight changeups."
Hoffman has converted 24 of 25 saves for his first-place Padres this season and is the all-time leader in save percentage for pitchers with at least 190 opportunities.
Fellow closer Tom Gordon of the Phillies, who set up Mariano Rivera during his days with the Yankees, said the job could not have been in better hands.
"Hoffman's the best in the game," Gordon said. "Him and Mariano. He'll get it done 99 percent of the time in that situation. It's a tough loss for us, but you can't second-guess Trevor Hoffman.
"He's done this year in and year out. Put him in that situation, and he'll get a strikeout or a fly ball. You've got to tip your hat to the American League. Those guys are tough. They've got some hitters, and they didn't quit."