Ichiro Hits Inside-The-Park HR; AL Leads

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 7:34 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Ichiro Suzuki hit the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star game history, taking advantage of an odd bounce off the wall to circle the bases and help give the American League a 3-2 lead over the National League after six innings of the All-Star game Tuesday night.

Suzuki's two-run homer overshadowed anything Giants slugger Barry Bonds did on the field. Bonds went 0-for-2 with two flyouts before leaving the game after three innings.

Ken Griffey Jr. was in the middle of everything, driving in both NL runs and throwing Alex Rodriguez out at home after Ivan Rodriguez's two-out single to right field in the fourth inning. The throw to Russell Martin beat Rodriguez easily and A-Rod just jogged into the out instead of trying to run over the catcher as Pete Rose did to Ray Fosse in the 1970 game.

But Griffey also let the carom from Suzuki's drive in the fifth against Chris Young get past him. A 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field, Griffey had never played right field in this ballpark until Tuesday night. With a runner on first base, Suzuki hit a drive toward the brick wall in right-center. There's an odd angle in the wall and the ball hit the section facing toward the foul line, while Griffey played it as if expecting it to bounce toward center.

By the time Griffey chased the ball down, the speedy Suzuki was already around third base and easily beat the throw home for his first inside-the-park homer since leaving Japan to join the Seattle Mariners for the 2001 season. On Monday, Griffey said he didn't like the walls here because he couldn't climb them. Now he has another reason, too.

Carlos Beltran hit a ball off nearly the same spot of the wall in the sixth inning, but Vladimir Guerrero chased it down in time to hold him to a triple. Griffey drove Beltran in with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2.

Bonds predictably got the longest and loudest ovations in pregame introductions and when he came up to the plate second in the first inning for the first time ever in his home ballpark in San Francisco. Bonds hasn't started a regular-season game in the No. 2 hole since June 6, 1987, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, although he batted second in the 1993 All-Star game at Baltimore.

Usually counted on to drive runners in from the cleanup spot, Bonds did not deliver in his new role. Jose Reyes singled and stole second to lead off the game but Bonds popped out to shallow right field, keeping Reyes at stuck at second. Griffey made up for it with a two-out RBI single against Dan Haren from Bonds' usual cleanup spot in the lineup.

Bonds came up again with a runner on second and no outs in the third inning after Reyes hit a grounder off the lip of the grass that bounced past third baseman Alex Rodriguez for a double.

``I was trying to get the runner over,'' Bonds said. ``My job as the second hitter, I'm thinking get the runner over.''

Bonds showed bunt on the first pitch from Josh Beckett before a flyout to the warning track in left field that again left Reyes at second.

Carl Crawford added a solo homer in the sixth against Francisco Cordero for the AL.

Suzuki also singled in his first two at-bats for AL manager Jim Leyland, who became the fifth man to manage both leagues in the All-Star game.

NL manager Tony La Russa has also managed both leagues and was looking to become the first to win in the both the AL and NL.

The AL has won nine straight times and has not lost since 1996 in Philadelphia. There was, of course, a tie game in 2002 in Milwaukee. Once again, the league that wins this game will have home-field advantage in the World Series.

Before the game, there was a moving tribute to Giants great Willie Mays, who was greeted by all the All-Stars on a stage he owned more than any other player. Mays played in a record 24 All-Star games and also holds the records for most at-bats, runs and hits.

The game also marked the final All-Star appearance for home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, who will retire following his record 37th season in the big leagues. This is Froemming's third All-Star appearance.