All-Star action brief, but Cards savor victory
Berkman, Holliday out after three; Yadi extends 'hitting streak'
PHOENIX -- It was a short night for Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, but much better to have one at-bat in a win than three in a loss.
The two Cardinals outfielders, both starters for the National League in the 82nd All-Star Game at Chase Field on Tuesday night, were lifted after three innings in the NL's second consecutive Midsummer Classic win, a 5-1 victory over the American League. Yadier Molina, who didn't start the game, actually played more than either of his teammates who were in the lineup.
Molina entered as a defensive replacement for starting catcher Brian McCann in the top of the fifth inning, and caught the next four innings as the NL built on its early two-run lead. He also added a double, extending his All-Star Game "hitting streak" to three games.
Berkman collected his first base hit in an All-Star Game since 2002 with a second-inning single, and very nearly picked up the first All-Star stolen base of his career. However, he was thrown out on his steal attempt with Holliday at the plate, as Holliday took a called third strike from David Robertson, ending the inning. Berkman overslid the base, allowing Robinson Cano to tag him out.
"I should have had it," Berkman said. "I thought the pitch was a ball to Matt, so I kind of just tried to avoid a collision at second base and just tried to get in there, because I thought it was ball four."
Mostly, though, Berkman got to play in a win for the first time. Unlike his teammates, both of whom played in the NL's triumph a year ago, he had never been on the winning side. For a lifelong National Leaguer, that's no small thing. Berkman has spent less than half a season out of his 13-year big league career playing in the Junior Circuit.
"There's National League pride for sure," he said. "I'm a National League guy, spent the majority of my career here. I think we have a great league and a lot of great players, so it's nice to get a win."
Molina, meanwhile, now has a hit in each of his three appearances in the All-Star Game, going 3-for-5 lifetime in the Midsummer Clasic. He's also been in two wins against just one loss. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner also caught four shutout innings from five pitchers, helping shepherd the NL's pitching staff toward the win.
"Whenever you go out there and get a win and you catch the new guys, that's a great experience for me," Molina said. "Hopefully I can repeat it next year. That's why we're here. Try to win the game."
Molina had a significant contingent of friends and family at the game, including his brother Bengie, a former Major League catcher.
Holliday had the smallest role in Tuesday night's win, going 0-for-1 before giving way to Hunter Pence in left field, but nonetheless had an enjoyable week. He participated in the State Farm Home Run Derby -- with Molina pitching to him on Monday -- before making his second All-Star Game start on Tuesday night. He also made a point of getting away from the park for a little down time with family.
"I think the time of the game [5:38 p.m. MT] allows you to have a little more time after the [events] to have time with family or see some people that came in," Holliday said.
As for the question that had many Cardinals fans shaking their heads, there was no plot against the two St. Louis outfielders. Manager Bruce Bochy wanted to make sure all of his outfielders got plenty of time, particularly hometown hero Justin Upton, first-time All-Star Jay Bruce and Houston's Pence, who had been named to the team before but never played in the game. Bochy ran the plan by both Holliday and Berkman, and both said they were on board.
Berkman, in fact, said that he told Bochy he would willingly forgo a second at-bat in order to make sure Upton got the chance to hit. So both men came out after three innings.
"I had the luxury of doing that, because of the number of outfielders," Bochy said, "and Berkman even said, 'You know what, I really would want some guys to go out there who haven't played in the All-Star Game.' And I talked to Matt yesterday, and he said, 'Yeah, three innings is good for me.'"
They both stayed to cheer on their teammates, though. And all three Cardinals got to be part of a win. Not bad for a few innings' work.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.