07/16/2003 12:30 AM ET
Wagner won't lose any sleep
Risk-taking is not lefty's style in All-Star Game
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Billy Wagner doesn't give up many homers to left-handed hitters. But if he must, he'd probably rather do it during the All-Star Game than during a contest that makes a difference in the standings, like the one he served up to Luis Gonzalez about a month ago that blew a 1-0 lead and led to a 2-1 loss.
So when Jason Giambi deposited a Wagner fastball into the seats in right-center field in the form of a 409-foot solo homer in the seventh inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game, the lefty closer didn't beat himself up over it. He wasn't thrilled about it, either, especially since it contributed to a 7-6 loss to the American League. But sometimes, that's just the way it goes.
Eric Gagne, who yielded a two-run homer to Hank Blalock to contribute to a three-run AL eighth, may or may not have had the same type of reaction. But in Wagner's view, the All-Star Game is not the time to takes risks, and if someone takes you deep as a result, so be it.
"It's different here," he said. "In a situation like this, you go out there and you want to have fun and have a good time and do your job. It's still different. Gagne's not going to throw up and in and I'm not going to throw up and in on guys. I want to get them out just as bad, but I'm not going to go inside and the ball gets away and I break a guy's hand. You're just not going to do it."
So if this were a regular-season game, would the results would have been different?
"I'm not saying that the pitch wouldn't be the same but I probably would have tried to go in a little bit more," Wagner said. "This is the type of game, you're not out there to hurt anybody. You're not out there trying to try to knock somebody down. You're just out there trying to get the job done."
From Giambi's vantage point, Wagner was doing what he always does -- throwing gas.
"He throws a hundred miles an hour," he said. "Luckily, I ran into one. I'll take it. I got one pitch and I didn't miss it."
Knowing Wagner's reputation as one of the best closers in the NL, Giambi figured his best bet was to assume he would see a fastball. He was right.
"When you throw 100 (mph), there's no reason to throw anything else," the Yankees first baseman said.
A veteran of three All-Star Games, Wagner was told by manager Dusty Baker before the game that he would be pitching the seventh, Gagne would go in the eighth, and if necessary, John Smoltz in the ninth. When Wagner entered the game, the National League was ahead, 6-3. By the time he and Gagne were done for the night, the AL had all but sealed its sixth All-Star win in seven years.
And as promised, the game was plenty competitive.
"The quality of play was excellent," Baker said. "You could tell in batting practice, the guys' approaches to hitting. You could tell the pitchers. You could tell how (Mike) Scioscia used his pitchers and how I used mine. It was a well-played game. They had some big hitters that hit the ball out of the ballpark. Especially when you see Jason Giambi hit one off Wagner; that's rare."
It was a moment the Astros closer won't be losing sleep over.
"You're facing the best of the best," Wagner said. "In a game during the (regular) season, it would have bothered me a lot. But you come here, and you just pitch different."
"It would have been even better if we won, but it was fun. It was fun to hang out with these guys and be a part of it. Now I'm looking forward to a day off and getting back to business on Thursday."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.