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Long goodbye: American League beats National League in 15 innings

NEW YORK | No place puts on a show like Broadway; and the pre-game pageantry Tuesday night turned the 79th All-Star Game at baseball’s highest cathedral into every fan’s field of dreams.

Then it got better. And better. And wouldn’t stop. The teams battled past midnight and into Wednesday. And still more.

It was almost as if Yankee Stadium refused to say goodbye.

The American League won, again — finally — when Texas shortstop Michael Young delivered a one-out sacrifice fly in the 15th inning for a 4-3 victory.

Young’s drive against Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge was just deep enough for slow-footed Justin Morneau of the Twins to beat the throw of Milwaukee’s Corey Hart to the plate.

The “safe” call of umpire Derryl Cousins came at 1:37 a.m. Eastern time and ended the longest game in All-Star history at 4 hours, 50 minutes. The 15 innings matched the 1967 marathon in Houston as the longest in terms of innings.

“We need a run,” Boston outfielder J.D. Drew said in summing up the AL mood as the game wore on. “That’s all we need. It would have been nice earlier on, but it worked out.”

If this turns out to be the last great night in the spotlight for the House That Ruth Built — and the Yankees are currently 5½ games out of a playoff berth _ it can stand as a fitting final hour.

More than 40 Hall of Famers took part in an extended pre-game ceremony brimming with emotional nostalgia and spiced heavily by Yankees tradition.

“A lot of guys, a lot of history,” Toronto pitcher Roy Halladay marveled. “Being able to be on the field with those guys is an honor. I felt like a kid in a candy store.”

Both teams used all 32 players on their rosters.

The AL extended its unbeaten streak to 12 years — 11 victories and one tie — and has now narrowed the NL’s once-formidable lead to 40-37-2. The victory ensures the AL champion will enjoy homefield advantage in the World Series for a seventh straight year.

Morneau began the winning rally with a leadoff single to center against Lidge.

Left fielder Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals took away a single from Texas’ Ian Kinsler by making a diving catch, but Dioner Navarro of the Rays served a single into center.

Morneau stopped at second.

Lidge loaded the bases by walking Drew, whose two-run homer erased a 2-0 deficit in the seventh inning. Drew was later chosen as the game’s most valuable player.

Young lofted a first-pitch fastball to medium right. Hart made the catch and strong throw to the plate, but Morneau slid around the tag of Braves catcher Brian McCann.

Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir got the victory.

The AL forced extra innings by erasing deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 in the late going. Both leagues then proceeded to blow a series of opportunities to win the game.

The best chance belonged to the AL after loading the bases with no outs in the 10th inning against Colorado’s Aaron Cook. Two errors by Florida second baseman Dan Uggla fueled the threat. Uggla also had an error in the 13th inning.

Cook induced three straight ground balls; the first two resulted in force outs at the plate.

The AL missed another chance in the 11th inning against Cook when Pittsburgh outfielder Nate McLouth threw out Navarro at the plate.

Cook credited Royals pitching coach Bob McClure for instilling a no-panic approach when the two were in the Rockies’ minor-league system.

“Mac always told me to be calm,” Cook said. “Keep your emotions under wraps and make quality pitches.”

Cook did all three. So did just about every other pitcher as the game lurched through extra innings.

“It got wild,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m not happy we lost, but I’m proud of the way our team played.”

The NL’s best opportunities came in the 10th inning against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and in the 12th against Royals closer Joakim Soria.

Rivera escaped a first-and-third jam with one out by getting Florida’s Dan Uggla to ground into a double play.

The NL loaded the bases with one out against Soria, but he struck out Uggla before Orioles closer George Sherrill ended the threat by striking out San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez.

Soria worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings after replacing Rivera to start the 11th. He was the first Royal to participate in an All-Star Game since Mike Sweeney was a pinch-hitter in 2005.

The AL was 0-9-1 in extra-inning games until Young’s game-winner.

The NL opened the scoring on a leadoff homer by Colorado’s Matt Holliday in the fifth against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana.

“I hadn’t had a hit yet in an All-Star Game,” he said, “and to have a home run here at Yankee Stadium is pretty exciting.”

The thrills were just starting.

The NL stirred again in the sixth against Oakland’s Justin Duchscherer, the majors’ ERA leader at 1.82. Successive singles by Florida’s Hanley Ramirez and Philadelphia’s Chase Utley put runners at first and third with no outs.

Houston’s Lance Berkman extended lead to 2-0 on a sacrifice fly to deep center. Albert Pujols of the Cardinals followed by grounding a single up the middle, but Duchscherer avoided further damage by retiring the next two hitters.

The AL pulled even in the seventh on Drew’s two-out homer against Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez. It followed a leadoff double by Morneau. Drew became the 16th player in history to hit a homer in his first All-Star at-bat, but the cheers were limited among the sellout crowd of 55.632.

The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry takes no days off.

The crowd also jeered Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, who took over in the eighth _ especially after Houston’s Miguel Tejada led off with a single.

Tejada stole second against an inattentive Papelbon and went to third when Navarro made a miserable throw to the left side went into center field. Gonzalez followed with a sacrifice fly to left for a 3-2 lead, which really fueled the crowd’s ire at Papelbon.

The AL answered again, though.

Giants closer Brian Wilson retired the first two hitters in the eighth before Hurdle called on Mets closer Billy Wagner for a lefty-lefty matchup against Grady Sizemore.

It backfired.

Sizemore pulled a single through the right side and then stole second. That steal produced the tying run when Evan Longoria hit a drive to left that hopped the wall for an RBI double.

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