SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — On a night of tricky hops, Ichiro Suzuki and the American League also bounced back to win.
Instead of a Barry Bonds splash shot, the defining hit at Tuesday’s All-Star game was Suzuki’s inside-the-park home run, the first in the game’s history.
Suzuki lined a go-ahead, two-run drive off the right-field wall in the fifth inning, Carl Crawford and Victor Martinez later hit conventional shots and the Americans made it 10 straight over Nationals, holding on for a 5-4 victory.
After Alfonso Soriano’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth, the NL loaded the bases. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez then retired Aaron Rowand on a routine fly to right for a save.
Willie Mays, Bonds’ godfather, was honored with a touching tribute before the game. In the Say Hey Kid’s day, the NL ruled All-Star games but not anymore. The AL closed to 40-36-2 and improved to 5-0 since the All-Star winner received homefield advantage in the World Series.
In a decade of dominance, the notorious 2002 tie at Milwaukee was all that interrupted the AL’s run. The only longer streak was when the NL took 11 in a row from 1972-82.
Soriano made it close with his homer off J.J. Putz. After the Seattle closer walked J.J. Hardy, Rodriguez relieved and walked Derrek Lee on a full count —AL manager Jim Leyland screamed at first-base umpire Charlie Reliford about a check swing.
Orlando Hudson also walked, loading the bases before Rowand’s fly ended it.
Suzuki, on the verge of a large contract extension from the Mariners, got three hits and was the game’s MVP.
Fans waited in kayaks out in McCovey Cove beyond right field in vain for some shots into the water — no souvenirs found their way into the chilly bay.
Bonds, the center of attention in the days before the game, had a quiet night. He flied to right field in the first, hit an opposite-field shot to the left-field warning track in the third, then departed at the top of the fourth.
He received a huge ovation after he came out on the red carpet during the pregame introductions and bowed three times to his adoring hometown fans. Hitting in the No. 2 spot — his last regular-season appearance in that slot was 20 years ago — he even faked a bunt on the first pitch of his second at-bat.
“There’s too many emotions to be able to explain it,” he said. “This is my family who I grew up for a lot of years. All I can do is say thank you.”
His chase for Hank Aaron’s home-run record resumes later this week, and the scrutiny will return. But for a night, the swirl of steroids speculation lifted along with the San Francisco fog.