MINNEAPOLIS — Adam Wainwright stepped off the mound — almost all of the way to second base — and took off his glove so he could applaud Derek Jeter when he came to bat in his final All-Star game Tuesday night.
Moments later, after the applause at Target Field subsided and Jeter stepped in, Wainwright helped to keep emotions stirring by grooving a couple of fastballs to Jeter, who lined the second one to right field for a double. The crowd roared its approval, and the American League was on its way to a quick lead in the All-Star game.
In a media scrum a few minutes later outside of the National League's clubhouse, Wainwright didn't leave any mystery to it:
"I was going to give him a couple pipe shots," Wainwright said. "He deserved it. I didn't know he was going to hit a double, or else I would have changed my mind on that. I thought he was going to hit something hard to the right side for a single or an out. I probably should have pitched him a little bit better."
So much for the All-Star game counting toward home-field advantage for the World Series being all that important. Wainwright knew this event was about Jeter. It all started with the stirring ovation before Jeter hit.
"I'd still be standing there if that's how long the ovation lasted," Wainwright said.
Jeter, predictably, told Wainwright to get on with it. But he waited.
"I just wanted him to enjoy it," Wainwright said. "I thought it was his moment. I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. I thought that all of the attention should be on him. I wanted to make sure I respected that time, that I gave him enough time for the fans to applaud. I didn't even want to get near that mound.
"He was telling me to go and I just thought he deserved it. I'm glad I got to face him. He's one of the greatest of all time. He got a hit, he beat me. I'm proud to have faced him."
Jeter got another hit against Alfredo Simon in the third. He went 2-for-2 and received another chilling ovation when he left the game in the fourth inning as he went to his position at shortstop. Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox gave him a hug and Jeter made his way off the field as an All-Star for the final time.
Wainwright's actions were gracious, but they also show the fallacy — or at least the slippery slope — of making the All-Star game "count" for something. A game in which each team needs at least one representative, regardless of whether they otherwise deserve it, isn't like a regular-season game or the playoffs. And a game in which the manager is pressured not only to win but to ensure that everyone who wants to play, does play, isn't all about competition. It's a paradox.
Wainwright made the right decision — both times, probably — though Bob Gibson might have rolled his eyes at a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher grooving two fastballs to anybody — and admitting to it.
The AL roughed up Wainwright in his inning of work, getting three runs and three hits. Jeter doubled, Mike Trout tripled and Miguel Cabrera lined a two-run homer to left.
"If you got a look at where the pitch that Miguel Cabrera hit out of the park was, he's a Nintendo-type player," Wainwright said. "He is so good. That ball was on the white chalk line inside and off the plate. Nobody keeps that ball fair."
Nobody except Cabrera.
Wainwright seemingly had no regrets, or second thoughts, about how he pitched to anyone.
"I was hoping it would be the first pitch, and he would take it so I could say, 'All right. I piped him one and he didn't swing.' But I spiked it in the dirt. I gave him one more shot and unfortunately he didn't miss it," Wainwright said.
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