Brewers All-Stars create good memories despite loss
JUL 16, 2014 1:54a ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jonathan Lucroy swung his bat with the same opportunism he did in his MLB debut here four years ago.
Carlos Gomez did the same thing, though his feistiness at Target Field's home plate earned him little more than laughs from the National League dugout.
Aramis Ramirez was his usual savvy self, though a close-call ground ball at third base that eluded him helped decide Tuesday night's Midsummer Classic. Closer Francisco Rodriguez held things together in his one inning of work.
There were enough Brewers on the field during the MLB All-Star Game -- a 5-3 American League triumph -- to consider the notion Milwaukee lost out on potentially earning home-field in advantage during the only baseball event that compares to what took place Tuesday in the Twin Cities. But future concerns can wait till they draw closer to the Miller Park home clubhouse.
This was about victory. But it was also about memory.
"We'll get there first," Lucroy said when asked about the NL contenders' World Series prospects, "then we'll worry about it then.
"Honestly, I'm not even worried about it. We're a better team on the road, anyway."
Indeed, the NL's No. 2 team heading into the All-Star break is 28-19 on the road (25-24) at home, tied for the league's second-best mark. Besides, manager Ron Roenicke's well-balanced bunch has its own, present issues to address.
Like losing 11 of 13 games heading into the midseason respite. "I think that we'd been pretty brutal those two weeks," said Lucroy, who made his inaugural All-Star start Tuesday in front of 41,048 fans. "We weren't competing at the level we should be at."
And the indefinite absence of Jean Segura while he -- and his team, from afar -- grieve the loss of the shortstop's 9-month-old son. "It's a sad situation," Rodriguez said. "There's no way around it. We've just got to stay with it and try to help him out the best we can, give him all the support he needs right now.
"We don't know how long he's going to be out. We don't know how long it's going to take him to get back with us."
Rodriguez has six children. His three teammates that made it to the past few days' festivities have kids of their own.
It makes the game they play for a living seem a trifle. But it also makes them appreciate scenes like Tuesday's all the more.
Ultimately, game MVP Mike Trout's sharp zinger down the third-base line in the bottom of the fifth provided the winning run. The ball skipped just past Ramirez's glove, allowing Derek Norris to score and give the American League -- which improved to 40-43-2 overall and 9-3 since the All-Star Game began deciding who claims home field in the World Series -- a 4-3 advantage.
A leadoff double by retiring legend Derek Jeter and Trout's subsequent RBI triple made a difference, too. National starter Adam Wainwright admitted he gave the surefire Hall of Famer a pitch to hit, adding to the Jeter celebration that was his final All-Star Game.
But Lucroy said that wasn't the case.
"I was back there catching," said Lucroy, who was inserted into the starting lineup when fan-voted catcher Yadier Molina was unable play due to injury. "I was calling the game to win.
"We were just trying to go down and away from him. (Wainwright) was going to try to win the at-bat, he just had that one to Jeter that he got a pretty good hit on."
It brought up the tired, annual question of Major League Baseball placing so much emphasis on the outcome of what's essentially an exhibition -- albeit one of sport's most majestic.
Right or wrong, it ensured the AL pennant winner of a slight edge in baseball's championship event.
But three of four men in grey jerseys with navy numerals and gold trim did their part to try and prevent it.
Lucroy thrust himself into early All-Star MVP consideration, batting 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI doubles. The first, off Boston's Jon Lester, brought the NL within a run in the second. The next made it 3-all two frames later when the White Sox's Chris Sale left a 3-1 fastball up in the zone for Lucroy to crank to right field.
It smacked of Lucroy's showing May 21, 2010 at Target Field. Then, he played in his first big-league game and recorded his first hit.
On this night, he played 3 1/2 innings, catching Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and Alfredo Simon before watching from the dugout. Ramirez lasted two stanzas longer and finished 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
Thirty-six years old and in his 17th major-league season, Ramirez's fourth All-Star Game may have been his last. His contract expires after this season.
So he tried to soak up every moment. "I took a lot from this game," the soft-spoken Venezuelan said.
Making his fifth All-Star appearance but first since 2009, Rodriguez tossed a scoreless seventh, his only blemish a two-out walk to Adrian Beltre.
But Gomez, the last of three Brewers batting in the bottom four of manager Mike Matheny's starting lineup, wasn't so sharp. Chasing pitches all over the zone, he popped out in foul territory behind home plate in the second and struck out swinging to end the top of the fourth with Lucroy standing on second base.
Gomez's lack of plate discipline reminded Twins observers of his volatile 2008 and 2009 seasons here before the Twins traded him to Milwaukee.
"We got to get him going," Ramirez cracked. "He didn't do anything."
But Gomez walked out of Target Field into the balmy Minnesota night beaming nonetheless.
"Always, I have a smile on my face," Gomez said after playing his second consecutive All-Star Game. "I'm blessed. I'm healthy, have a beautiful family and do the job that I love. The tough days can be the best day of your life. That's why I every time I step on that field, I thank God for this opportunity."
Gomez planned to spend the break's final two days at Wisconsin Dells with his family. The rest of the Brewers All-Stars dispersed with their relatives to catch up on well-needed rest.
The fact that four of them played Tuesday night is a testament to their first half, which at the end of April had earned them the majors' best record, all four players concurred.
Now, it's about recapturing the essence of that echelon.
"That's not a fluke," Ramirez said. "We've got a good team."
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