Moments after Derek Jeter drew his second big ovation of Tuesday's All-Star Game by leading off the first inning with a double, Mike Trout sent him home with a triple.
As passing-of-the-torch metaphors go, baseball could do worse.
In a season when the game is sending its foremost ambassador into retirement -- the Midsummer Classic being the latest stop in the Jeter farewell tour -- Trout stands at the ready to fill his void.
In a manner Jeter would appreciate, Trout's latest star turn on the national spotlight came in a win, as the American League defeated the National League 5-3 behind two RBI hits from the multitalented Los Angeles Angels outfielder, who was named the game's MVP.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera also drove in two runs with a line-drive home run to left off Adam Wainwright as the AL opened a 3-0 lead in the first.
Trout missed driving in Jeter a second time when Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez made a running catch of his drive to the left-field corner, but he still finished 2-for-3 with two extra-base hits and a run scored. His double past third base with two runners aboard in the fifth put the AL ahead to stay 4-3 after the NL had come back to tie it on Jonathan Lucroy's second run-scoring double.
The AL collected its second All-Star Game win in a row -- and the accompanying home-field advantage in the World Series -- after dropping the previous three.
As the starting left fielder for the AL, Trout, who turns 23 on Aug. 7, became the fourth AL outfielder to get invited to three All-Star Games before reaching that age. Two of the other three are Hall of Famers -- Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline -- and the third one, Ken Griffey Jr., will be when he becomes eligible.
Trout's qualifications to take the mantle from Jeter go way past his All-Star Game exploits, which now include three extra-base hits and a .571 batting average (4-for-7). He's generally acknowledged as the best player in baseball even by those who think of WAR as a military maneuver, not a gauge of a player's value.
The sabermetric crowd began making the case for Trout as far back as his rookie season of 2012, when his Wins Above Replacement figure of 10.9 was considerably higher than Cabrera's 7.3. Cabrera, coming off the majors' first Triple Crown since 1967, beat out Trout for the AL MVP award that season and the next.
This year may prove a different story. Not only is Trout leading the league in on-base plus slugging percentage and WAR, but the Angels have the second-best record in baseball after back-to-back third-place finishes that surely cost him MVP votes.
Just as significantly for Trout's case as the face of the game, he has maintained his clean-cut All-American image amid the intense scrutiny that comes with playing in the nation's second-largest media market in the Twitter and Facebook age.
Unbeknownst to him, Jeter had a bit of influence in that regard. Growing up in Millville, N.J., Trout tried to emulate Jeter as a teenage shortstop before switching to center field his senior year in high school.
"He's always been my favorite player to watch, just the way he carried himself on and off the field, winning championships," Trout said not long before signing a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension in the spring. "It all comes down to winning. You can have all the best stats in the world, but if you're not winning, it really doesn't mean nothing."
Original headline: Trout gives AL punch
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