MIAMI — Not playing wasn't an option for Robinson Cano. He loves the game and the rush of playing far too much to be a spectator for nine innings on baseball's biggest stage.
Chosen to be a part of his eighth All-Star Game, the Mariners second baseman shrugged off the notion that he should rest his aching quadriceps in preparation for the second half of the season.
"If I'm here, I'm going to play," he said defiantly to such talk-radio notion on Monday.
Not only did Cano play, but he won the game for the American League on Tuesday night and took home game MVP honors.
Cano's laser of a solo homer to right field on a curveball from Cubs closer Wade Davis in the top of the 10th inning, provided the go-ahead run for the American League in a 2-1 win at Marlins Park.
Cano was definitely feeling no pain in that quad as he jogged around the bases, blowing bubbles and flashing his easy, toothy grin.
Cleveland's Andrew Miller closed out the game to get the save.
In years past, Cano's heroics might have ensured the Mariners home-field advantage in the World Series. Aside from being a somewhat preposterous notion for a team that hasn't sniffed the postseason since 2001, the rules for this year's game have changed.
This time it didn't count.
Like many All-Star Games of the past before former commissioner Bud Selig's dense decision to allow home-field advantage to be determined by an exhibition game, Tuesday night's game at Marlins Park was more celebration than competition, highlighting baseball's growing number of talented young stars.
Per the recent collective-bargaining agreement, the All-Star Game no longer would determine home-field advantage. It was a wise reversion to the previous way when the team with the best overall record got home-field advantage.
It was fitting though that the game went into extra innings. After all, it was the debacle of the 2002 game at Miller Park in Milwaukee that ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings. The following season baseball made the game count toward home-field advantage despite objections from the MLB players union.
Perhaps no moment summed up that return to fun than just before Nelson Cruz stepped into the batter's box in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter replacing starting designated hitter Corey Dickerson. Cruz reached into his back pocket and pulled out his cellphone and handed it to catcher Yadier Molina. He then asked plate umpire Joe West to pose for a photo.
West seemed confused initially, but then removed his mask while Molina knelt in front of the plate and snapped a few pics of the two smiling men.
It was one of a few highlights on night where pitchers dominated in the game. Even though baseball is on pace to set a record for home runs in a season, the adage of good pitching beating good hitting prevailed for much of the night. The teams combined to strike out 23 times with 17 total hits — only three extra-base hits.
The American League grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning. Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop doubled down the third-base line. He scored on Miguel Sano's bloop single to right field. Three Nationals players — right fielder Bryce Harper, second baseman Daniel Murphy and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman — all sprinted for the ball, but each of them seemed unsure of what the other might do. So there was no diving attempt made by any of them and the ball dropped just feet inside the foul line.
Schoop scooted home to give the AL a 1-0 lead.
"There are players that have played in like five All-Star Games and didn't have a basehit," Sano said. "It got a hit and an RBI."
The NL tied the score in the sixth inning on Molina's solo homer to right field.
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