For Mariano Rivera, this was a final and emotional All-Star
Game, played in the city where he has starred for 19 seasons.
The American League defeated the National League 3-0 at Citi Field, with Yankees icon Rivera coming in all alone in the eighth inning to his usual Yankee Stadium entrance music, "Enter Sandman."
There was no one else on the field except catcher Salvador Perez as Rivera warmed up to massive applause from the cross-town rival fans, a remarkable sight. Rivera, 43, worked a scoreless eighth and was named the game's MVP, to add to his previous World Series and League Championship Series MVP trophies.
Rivera called it "a little weird" to warm up with only a catcher and no fielders behind him, but, he said, "I took everything in because it was priceless. I will never see this again."
Players from both teams stood and applauded the major leagues' all-time saves leader. Rivera said, "That almost made me cry."
"That was a really neat deal which he richly, richly deserves," NL manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants said.
When it came to Bay Area All-Stars, though, Tuesday night's game was a little on the quiet side, with only two men, A's closer Grant Balfour and Giants catcher Buster Posey, participating. Balfour, pitching to Twins catcher Joe Mauer, his former teammate, walked another ex-Minnesota teammate, Michael Cuddyer, on four pitches in the sixth before retiring the next three men; Posey struck out in the seventh after replacing Yadier Molina behind the plate in the sixth.
For Balfour and the rest of the AL bullpen, there was only one goal.
"To see Mariano come in, we were all playing for that," he said. "We were all playing for one guy. It's a team game, but we all wanted to see that guy go out on a high. Just get it done, get the ball to him. It was great."
AL manager Jim Leyland had Rivera pitch the eighth because he didn't want to risk the NL taking the lead in the eighth and having no bottom of the ninth -- and no Mo.
The game result could have an impact on the first-place A's, certainly, or the Giants if they climb back into contention. The All-Star Game decides home-field advantage in the World Series, something the Giants know all about.
"Both years we won the World Series, I felt like it was a big advantage to wake up at home," Posey said.
The AL snapped a three-year losing streak.
"Hopefully, in Oakland, we'll be sitting there in October saying how glad we are that we won that All-Star Game and we're playing at home in the first game of the World Series," Balfour said, then added with a chuckle about his teammates, "The other guys can thank me then."
Neither team scored until the fourth inning, when reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera doubled to center, and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Bautista. The next inning, Adam Jones led off with a double off Cliff Lee. J.J. Hardy sent him in with a groundout. And in the eighth, Jason Kipnis of the Indians doubled Perez in to make it 3-0.
NL starter Matt Harvey of the Mets hit Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano on the knee in the first inning. Cano was taken for X-rays, which proved negative.
"Obviously, the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly hurt somebody," Harvey said. "I apologized and made sure that he was OK. I think he understood it wasn't intentional."
The National League didn't get its first hit until Carlos Beltran's one-out single off Felix Hernandez in the fourth inning. In all, the AL staff allowed only three hits and the walk by Balfour.
"That's a good lineup we threw out there, a lot of great hitters," Bochy said. "Give them credit, they shut us down."
Susan Slusser is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @susanslusser
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