The Twins' Joe Mauer lined out in his first All-Star at-bat, a sight so familiar this season that even Tiger Miguel Cabrera noticed.
ANAHEIM, CALIF. - The Yankees might have to play Game 7 of the World Series on the road this year.
The National League overcame recent history, the Rally Monkey, and a symbolically tepid performance by Joe Mauer on Tuesday night, beating the American League 3-1 in the All-Star game at Angels Stadium.
It was the first NL victory since 1996, and it was the result of a fine, young, lefthanded-hitting catcher unleashing the key hit to right field.
The catcher, though, was not Mauer, the leading vote-getter in the game, but Atlanta's Brian McCann, whose three-run double in the seventh made him the game's MVP.
The reigning AL MVP, Mauer, didn't fare so well.
Mauer played five innings, leaving with the AL leading 1-0. He went 0-for-2, lining to center in his first at-bat and reaching on a throwing error after hitting a weak roller to the pitcher in his second at-bat.
He threw wildly to second on a steal, and was thrown out at third trying to advance on a grounder to short.
"I thought I was in there," he said.
He attained symbolism if not success in the second inning, when he lined a shot to center off Colorado ace Ubaldo Jiminez that was caught. The moment echoed a first half in which Mauer's production slipped while he watched hard-hit balls die in Target Field.
Standing in the tunnel outside of the AL clubhouse after he left the game following the fifth inning, Mauer, dripping sweat, admitted that swing reminded him of his struggles.
"A little bit, yeah," he said. "It's funny, [the Tigers' Miguel] Cabrera came up and told me that, too -- 'That's what you're doing the whole first half, isn't it?' -- It was pretty funny.
"I saw that ball pretty good and put good wood on it."
It was a beautiful, Southern California night, and the game began with sun and shadows mixing on the field, promising a low-scoring game, considering the quality of pitching assembled.
"It's tough," Mauer said. "It's a little nerve- wracking today. The shadows are a little tough when you have guys who have good movement and you're not familiar with them."
Mauer lined out to center in the second inning. In the top of the fifth, Mets third baseman David Wright tried to steal, and Mauer's throw sailed well to the right of Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and into center field. Mauer was not charged with an error because Wright stayed at second base.
"I probably shouldn't have thrown it," Mauer said. "He had a good jump. It was a tough pitch, a two-seamer in, and I just didn't go through it."
Two former Twins became key figures in the game. Local hero Torii Hunter received a huge ovation during introductions and when he entered the game to play center field, but he struck out with two on and two out in the seventh.
"It was fun being the spokesman for the All-Star game here," Hunter said. "It was more than I expected. My legs were shaking. I was full of Red Bull, coffee and Pepsi."
A day after winning the Home Run Derby, former Twin David Ortiz led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to right. When John Buck's bloop to right fell in, Ortiz got caught between first and second and Marlon Byrd's one-hopper to second forced him, short-circuiting the AL rally.
"I thought we should have a bat boy run for him," Hunter joked.
Mauer said he planned to spend Wednesday at his cabin "fishing and sleeping." He got plenty of rest Monday night. He gathered with his family by the hotel pool, ate there and retired early.
As weary as he has seemed at times this season, Mauer said playing in the All-Star game was energizing.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "The adrenaline started kicking in, and I felt like could do anything."
He laughed and said, "I felt like I could get third on that play [in the fifth inning], with the adrenaline kicking in. I felt pretty good today, and I'll relax tomorrow and try to get back to it on Thursday."
The Twins need him to return with some energy, or maybe the Rally Monkey, in the overhead bin.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • email@example.com