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July 17, 2013

Video, Story: Rivera enters early, helps AL win All-Star Game

NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera reported early for work, and walked off to a fitting tribute.

Summoned in the eighth inning to make sure he would pitch in his final All-Star game, the New York Yankees’ indomitable closer got three straight outs and soaked up a pair of standing ovations while helping the American League to a 3-0 victory over the National League last night at Citi Field.

“I wanted to pitch,” said Rivera, who took home the MVP trophy. “I think the plan was perfect.”

Rivera and nine other pitchers combined on a three-hitter as the AL snapped a three-game skid and regained home-field advantage in the World Series. Joe Nathan saved it in Rivera’s place after the American League scratched out a pair of runs and got an RBI double from Jason Kipnis.

Robinson Cano hobbled off early after getting hit by a pitch from crosstown rival Matt Harvey of the hosting Mets. X-rays were negative and Cano said he shouldn’t miss any games for the Yankees.   

Harvey and opposing starter Max Scherzer were among a record 39 first-time All-Stars in a game that featured four precocious players 21 or younger — baseball’s next generation.

Both came out throwing 99 mph heat, but it was Rivera, at 43 the oldest All-Star since Carlton Fisk in 1991, who was the center of attention in his farewell season. And on this night, with drug suspensions still looming for some of the game’s biggest names, the spotlight found a player who is almost universally respected.

Baseball’s career saves leader came in from the bullpen to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” just like across town at Yankee Stadium, and was left alone on the field for 90 seconds to take in a stirring ovation.

“It was a great moment. He is one of the best pitchers that’s ever played this game,” Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said.

Players on both sides clapped from the top of the dugout steps, and Rivera tipped his cap to the crowd.

Then he went to work, retiring three straight hitters on 16 pitches — all cutters, as usual — before walking off to another ovation and receiving a hug from Detroit ace Justin Verlander.

“I just happened to be standing out there,” Verlander said. “That’s something that I will never forget.”

Exit, Sandman.

Next stop, the Hall of Fame.

“It was tough. It was special,” an emotional Rivera said. “Seeing the fans sharing and both teams standing out of the dugout, managers, coaches, players, priceless.”

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